CANBERRA (Jun. 15)
A possible shift of the government’s sympathies away from Israel is receiving wide attention here. The country, under the current Labor Administration and the previous. Liberal rule, has been officially neutral while leaning openly toward Israel. But the Minister for External Affairs, the Rt- Hon. William McMahon, said in the House of Representatives today that Australia, will maintain “strict neutrality” in Arab-Israeli conflicts. Concurrently, the Australian press has been taking a more reserved tone in its comments on the Middle East. Observers say that even if the government has not changed its policy, it has certainly changed its emphasis significantly. Mr. McMahon had been asked by an opposition member why Australia had not protested the Soviet buildup in Egypt and why Australia’s national airline, Qantas lands in Arab countries but not in Israel. He replied: “Our attitude has been one of strict neutrality and we will continue to maintain that position.” He added that Qantas had landing rights in Damascus, Syria, but that he did not know its policy regarding Israel.