In Canberra, Bush leaves tough trade issues to lower-ranking officials
US Vice-President George Bush has just completed a four-day ''good news'' visit to Australia in which he successfully buried every potential area of serious dispute beneath promises for future negotiations.
His task was made easier because he bore with him an invitation to Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser to meet with President Reagan in Washington on May 17.
But Mr. Fraser is also expected to avoid the ''hard'' problems, mainly involving trade and commerce, when he sees Mr. Reagan. Mr. Fraser will concentrate on issues such as the state of the international economy and the need to continue to stand up to the Soviet Union. The ''hard'' issues will be left to more junior officials in talks over the coming months.
The government cooperated with Mr. Bush's desire for an uncontroversial visit. But opposition Labor Party leader Bill Hayden raised a few problems concerning US defense installations in Australia and past activities of the Central Intelligence Agency in Australia.
Mr. Hayden warned the vice-president that a future Labor government would want to renegotiate the terms under which the US operates a huge radio transmitter on North West Cape in Western Australia. The station is the major communications facility with US forces in the Indian Ocean area, particularly for the command of submarines. The Labor Party wants Australia to have a veto power over messages that might be originated at the base.
The vice-president said he did not see any problem arising that couldn't be settled by negotiations between future US and Australian governments.
On hard commercial disputes, Australia is seriously concerned at the way the US is applying its antitrust laws against Australian interests. Many Australian farmers also disapprove of methods adopted by the US to sell wheat and other products competing with Australian exports.
On the antitrust issue, the Australian government complains that US antitrust laws are being applied to Australian corporations operating outside the US, with agreements approved by authorities in Australia. Australian uranium mining interests have already been fined by US courts for operating in a cartel.
Wheat producers are angry because they lost markets to Argentina and other wheat producers when they cooperated with the US trade embargo against the Soviet Union over its invasion of Afghanistan.
The chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, Sir Leslie Price, recently cited South Korea and the Philippines as two ''potentially significant'' markets for Australia where the US was putting pressure on governments to buy