The Australian government said on Friday it would pay any fine incurred if the country's world champion cricketers cancel the tour of Zimbabwe later this year for political reasons.
Prime Minister John Howard, a strong critic of the regime of President Robert Mugabe, said it would be unfair for Cricket Australia to have to pay a fine of up to 1.6 million US dollars to the International Cricket Council.
Australia, who wrapped up a third successive World Cup victory in the Caribbean last week, are due to play three one-day internationals in the troubled southern African nation in September.
But Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has long made it clear the government wants to scrap the tour.
"I will be having and Alexander Downer will be having further discussions with Cricket Australia because the situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated very badly," Howard said.
"In the end, foreign policy decisions have got to be taken by governments and the situation in Zimbabwe is quite unacceptable.
"We would indemnify Cricket Australia for any compensation it might have to pay to the international body. It would not be fair to visit the cost of a foreign policy decision on a sporting body."
Howard said players should be consulted on the issue but the government would make the final decision on whether the tour should proceed or not.
Mugabe's regime has drawn international criticism over its brutal crushing of dissent last month as the country spirals into economic meltdown, with inflation running at more than 2,000 per cent.