156 Letter from Feakes to Woolcott

Canberra, 16 July 1975


In the event, it was not until Tuesday 15 July that we sent out a reply 1 to the telegram about Harry Tjan's account of Indonesian intentions towards Portuguese Timor.2 The Secretary took the view that our outwards telegram should be approved by the Minister because of possible reactions from the Prime Minister, and it was not until Tuesday that we could get the Minister's approval.

After he approved the telegram, the Minister rang me up about Portuguese Timor and I have recorded in the attached minute what he said on that subject and also on defence assistance to South-East Asia. I should be glad if you would safeguard carefully the information, particularly in paragraph 2 of the minute, which is very delicate. I do not myself think that any government in Australia could afford to take the lead in the United Nations in moves against Indonesia over Portuguese Timor. In the paper we are preparing about international reactions to an Indonesian move against Portuguese Timor, we shall try to bring this latter point out.




The Minister telephoned me on 15 July to talk about Portuguese Timor against the background of the recent telegram from Jakarta conveying Harry Tjan's account of Indonesian intentions. He had before him the draft reply prepared by SEA Branch (which, incidentally, he described as 'excellent').

2. The Minister was interested in international reactions, including reactions in the United Nations and, in particular, American reactions, to an Indonesian move against Portuguese Timor of the sort that Tjan had described. I said that we had already made some informal soundings of our posts abroad on this question and that we could do an information paper for the Minister on the basis of which a further assessment could be made if the Minister wished-although we did not think that at this stage we should be talking to other Governments on the question, except perhaps to the United States (because, virtually alone among other countries, it shares some of the same problems with us in relation to Portuguese Timor). Within the Department, I said, there was a range of views on the question of international reactions to the Indonesian move against Portuguese Timor. I thought that most people working on the issue felt that the international reactions would not be very strong. The Minister made it clear that he doubted this latter view. But he was more concerned with the problems which would arise for Australia once the issue of Portuguese Timor got into the United Nations. It was clear that he felt that it would be impossible and, indeed, undesirable, for us to avoid taking anti-Indonesian attitudes in the United Nations and that the same went for the United States. He wondered whether we might not ask Mr Woolcott to mention to the Indonesians, in the context of a discussion about Portuguese Timor, that we had voted to exclude the South Africans from the United Nations. I did not pursue this point with the Minister: my impression is that he is not suggesting that we would find ourselves in a position of voting to exclude the Indonesians from the United Nations, but rather that we needed to bring home to the Indonesians that we took the obligations of membership of the United Nations very seriously.

[matter omitted]

[NAA: A10463, 801/13/11/1, xi]