The government would likely step in should the pay stand-off between Cricket Australia and the players reach a “crisis point,” federal sport minister Greg Hunt says.
With only weeks of the memorandum of understanding remaining and the prospect of a player strike still lurking in the background, the situation appears no closer to being resolved.
Australia’s players could find themselves out of contract and without pay from July 1, and some have raised the prospect of an Ashes boycott if the situation can not be remedied.
But Mr Hunt says the summer of cricket is “part of our national identity”, and the government would ensure no such boycott would occur.
“If it got to a last-minute situation, I suspect that we would offer to provide good offices brokering between the parties,” Mr Hunt said on ABC’s Insiders.
“But there is six months between now and the Ashes. It would be unthinkable that in the end, we wouldn’t have a full team.
“I do not see either the players or the administration returning to the late ’70s where we had a second-rate team. The players love playing for Australia.
“The administration, Cricket Australia, knows that this is not just fundamental to sport, it is part of our national identity. I am very confident that they will reach an agreement.”
— Insiders ABC (@InsidersABC) May 27, 2017
Government intervention could set a dangerous precedent, especially considering how frequent sporting pay disputes have been in Australia in recent months.
But Mr Hunt said he would only step in at an appropriate time, and if the relevant cricket bodies were receptive to the intervention.
“What I don’t want to do, across all sports, is try to step in and become the mediator in contract disputes,” he said.
“If there were a fundamental threat, at an appropriate time, we would offer to work with them.
“But all the advice I have is that we’re six months to travel and the Ashes will be proceeding with a full Australian team and come Boxing Day, you’ll have Steve Smith and David Warner and the rest of the team out there.”