The federal government is considering a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
It comes as 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 has announced that America will not send any government officials to the Games next year, citing the Chinese government’s ongoing genocide against minority Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and other human rights violations.
Employment Minister Stuart Robert told reporters in Sydney that a diplomatic boycott was “under consideration” by the government.
Labor called for a bipartisan approach to the boycott, if it is accepted.
Liberal Senator Eric Abetz, who also chairs the upper house’s foreign affairs, defense and trade law committee, called on Australian officials not to attend the games.
“I hope other freedom-loving countries like Australia will also take a stand of solidarity,” the Tasmanian senator told ABC radio on Tuesday.
“Taking a stand with a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics is the right way forward, so I’m absolutely delighted that Joe Biden’s administration has taken the lead.”
Senator Abetz said he was not concerned about a possible return of China if Australia also decides to go ahead with a diplomatic boycott.
Although China has already launched several export bans on Australian goods, Senator Abetz said Australia should take a principled stance regardless of further economic or diplomatic fallout.
“You never know what the response of the bellicose dictatorship in China will be,” he said.
“But we took a stand on the basis of what is right in principle, not what the consequences might be.”
Labor Senator Katy Gallagher urged the government to work with the opposition on a boycott position.
“We believe that, in this case, a national position where the two main parties agree is the way to go,” she told reporters in Canberra.
“Australia should make its decision in the national interest, and preferably in a bipartisan fashion.”
Senator Abetz said the government took the call for a diplomatic boycott seriously.
However, Australian athletes should still be able to compete in the Olympics, noting that athlete participation was the responsibility of the International Olympic Committee, he said.
But National Senator Matt Canavan has gone further and is calling for an athlete boycott.
“The treatment of sportsmen in China must raise the question of whether we should engage in sports 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 accusing the former Chinese vice premier of sexually assaulting her.
As a result, the Women’s Tennis Association has suspended its tournaments in China.
South Australian Independent Senator Rex Patrick hailed the United States’ decision to implement the diplomatic boycott.
“It would be morally wrong for the Australian government to extend any official approval measures to the Chinese Communist regime,” he said.
“The Australian government must be particularly clear on the responsibility of the Chinese Communist Party in the genocide.”
Australian Associated Press