BARNABY Joyce has slammed the Coalition as a "marriage of convenience" and called for the Nationals to hold more power within the partnership.
In an opinion piece for the Australian, published a few days before the first Parliament sitting week of 2021, the former deputy prime minister and party leader argued the Nationals should hold one more cabinet portfolio.
Given the party makes up a fifth (21 per cent) of the seats needed to form government, it should hold a fifth of the seats in cabinet, he said.
"The Nationals have 16 and the Liberals have 61 seats where 76 are needed to have a majority of the 151 in the House of Representatives," Mr Joyce said.
"The Nationals, by this calculation, are entitled to five of 22 cabinet ministers [22.7pc], not four."
Mr Joyce said his party should hold "substantive portfolios such as Treasury, Finance, Defence or Trade".
"Nationals cabinet ministers share responsibility for merely 3.45 per cent of the total federal budget," Mr Joyce said.
"Even if we exclude all of Treasury's budget, the Nationals still only share a fifth with the other Liberals.
"Even in committees, the step below cabinet, the prominent committees are chaired by Liberals. The Nationals chair only two, 9.5 per cent of the 21 joint standing committees. Of the most important statutory committees, all are held by Liberals."
Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Michael McCormack dismissed Mr Joyce's concerns and said the alliance made both parties stronger.
"Seeing as though he used the word of marriage, it's a marriage of strength," Mr McCormack said.
"We work well together. Right across the nation, Liberals and Nationals are working together to build a better Australia.
Mr McCormack said regional voters weren't "worried about the power struggles in Canberra".
"They're not worried about who might sit on a committee or what percentage of this and that is made up of the government," he said.
"That hasn't even been raised with me before today. What they are absolutely concentrating on, what the people of Australia want from their government is delivery and that's what we're doing."
Mr Joyce said he was "kicking up the dust" because the "marriage of convenience" hurt the electoral prospects of the whole Coalition.
"The Nationals are berated if they talk to their constituency on pertinent issues at odds with the conditions of Coalition policy, which is really just Liberal policy," he said.
Mr Joyce's attack came alongside a Nationals backbench policy for new coal power, which goes against the grain of the government's policy.
It was released by Senator Matt Canavan, a long-time ally of Mr Joyce.
Treasurer Josh Frydenburg was blunt when asked about the calls from Nationals backbenchers to subsidise a new coal-fired power station.
"We are not about to fund a new coal-fired power station," Mr Frydenburg said.