Australia throws its weight behind US slap to Moscow
| Canberra, Australia
The Australian government has decided to give full backing to President Carter's various initiatives to penalize the Soviet Union over its invasion of Afghanistan.
At a special meeting Jan. 22, the Cabinet decided to approach the Australian Olympic Federation with a request that it boycott the Moscow Olympics.
The federation executive will consider the government's request later this week and make a recommendation to a full meeting of the federation early next month.
Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has refused to say whether the government would intervene in any way if the federation decided to ignore the government's request.
Public opinion in Australia is divided over whether "politics" should be allowed to interfere with sport.
Opposition leader Bill Hayden has warned that a boycott of the games would be useless if it was not supported by a majority of nations scheduled to compete in Moscow.
Prime Minister Fraser has taken a strong stand on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and is a leading force behind the Cabinet's determination of an Australian response.
In early January, the Cabinet decided that it would ban scientific and cutural exchanges with the Soviet Union, and cancel agreements that would have allowed Soviet participation in new fishing ventures off the Australian coast.
It also agreed that Australia would not sell additional grain to the Soviet to make up the shortfall caused by the US decision to cancel grain contracts.
Last week it was announced that overseas visits would be undertaken by the prime minister and by Foreign Minister Andrew Peacock, to demonstrate Australia's antagonism toward the Soviet moves.
Prime Minister Fraser leaves Australia on Monday for visits to Washington and London. In Washington he expects to discuss with President Carter proposals to strengthen defense preparedness in the Indian Ocean area and other key issues arising from the Afghanistan situation.
He will fly on the London for talks with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher Feb. 4.
Foreign Minister Peacock left Australia earlier this week for discussions with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as India and Pakistan. He is expected to try to gain support for the boycott of the Moscow Olympics.
Although there has been all-party condemnation of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Labor Party has begun expressing concern about the prime minister's stance on the issue.
Mr. Fraser has always taken a strong anti- Soviet line as prime minister -- indeed, for as long as he has been a member of Parliament. His present position is that the invasion simply proves what he has always said, that the Russians are not to be trusted.
He says that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has "virtually pushed detente aside and made it impossible for nations to conduct relations with the Soviet Union on a basis of trust and confidence."
The opposition Labor Party's real fear is that the foreign policy issue will dominate this year's federal election and give the government a boost in public support that it needs if it is to be certain of winning the elections.