Aust Beijing boycott 'under consideration'

Government senators want Australia to ban its diplomats from the Winter Olympics in China.
Government senators want Australia to ban its diplomats from the Winter Olympics in China.

The federal government is considering a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

It comes as federal MPs urged Australia to follow the United States' lead and join a diplomatic boycott of the Games, due to be held next February.

US President Joe Biden announced America won't send any government officials to next year's Games, citing the Chinese government's ongoing genocide against minority Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses.

Employment Minister Stuart Robert told reporters in Sydney a diplomatic boycott was "under active consideration" by the government.

Labor has called for a bipartisan approach to a boycott, should one be agreed to.

Liberal senator Eric Abetz, who also chairs the upper house foreign affairs, defence and trade legislation committee, has called for Australian officials not to attend the Games.

"I trust other freedom-loving countries like Australia will also make a stance in solidarity," the Tasmanian senator told ABC radio on Tuesday.

"Taking a stand with a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics is the right way to go, so I'm absolutely delighted Joe Biden's administration has taken the lead."

Senator Abetz said he was not concerned about potential blowback from China should Australia also decide to go ahead with a diplomatic boycott.

Despite China already launching several export bans on Australian goods, Senator Abetz said Australia should take a principled stand, regardless of further economic or diplomatic fallout.

"One never knows what the response of the belligerent dictatorship will be in China," he said.

"But we have taken a stand on the basis of what is right in principle, and not what the consequences might be."

Labor senator Katy Gallagher urged the government to work with the opposition on a position on the boycott.

"We do think, in this case, a national position where Sboth major parties agree is the sensible way forward," she told reporters in Canberra.

"Australia should make their decision in the national interest, and preferably in a bipartisan way."

Senator Abetz said the government was taking the call for a diplomatic boycott seriously.

However, Australian athletes should still be able to compete at the Olympics, noting athlete participation was a matter for the International Olympic Committee, he said.

But Nationals senator Matt Canavan has gone a step further and is advocating for an athletes boycott.

"The treatment of sportspeople within China has to raise the question of whether we should be engaging in sporting activities with such a government," he told Sky News.

Senator Canavan's comments come after the disappearance of tennis player Peng Shuai, who has not been seen for several weeks after she accused China's former vice-premier of sexually assaulting her.

The Women's Tennis Association has suspended its tournaments in China as a result.

Independent South Australian senator Rex Patrick welcomed the US decision to implement the diplomatic boycott.

"It would be morally wrong for the Australian government to extend any measure of official endorsement to the Chinese Communist regime," he said.

"The Australian government needs to be particularly clear about the Chinese Communist Party's responsibility for genocide."

Australian Associated Press