341 Submission to Peacock

Canberra, 19 November 1975


Relations with Indonesia: Portuguese Timor

  1. Attached is a copy of my submission to you of 13 November about relations with Indonesia and the question of Portuguese Timor.1 The submission rehearses the difficulties which have arisen with the Indonesians over Timor and refers to the possibility of action in the United Nations on Portuguese Timor and to the plans for talks between the Portuguese and the three main political groups in Portuguese Timor.
  2. It may be that the talks will not take place or, if they do, will fail to reach agreement; it seems also likely that consideration of Portuguese Timor in the United Nations will not point the way to a solution in the territory which would ease the difficulties that have arisen in Australia's relations with Indonesia. We should not exaggerate those difficulties but they have affected our relationship, which otherwise remains very good.
  3. If the proposed talks do not take place or fail and the United Nations consideration of Portuguese Timor does not take matters forward, a new phase in this whole issue would be opened. This would be after the elections on 13 December. As by then there would have been no discussion at Ministerial level with the Indonesians about our general relationship and the issue of Portuguese Timor for many months, a visit to Jakarta by the Minister for Foreign Affairs would be desirable. Even if the issue of Timor had not arisen, it would be normal for a new Australian Foreign Minister to make an early visit to Indonesia.
  4. For reasons which emerge from the attached submission, we should not be sanguine that a Foreign Minister's visit, while it will point to the importance the Australian Government continues to attach to relations with Indonesia, would be effective in easing the difficulties which have arisen over Timor. Many of the problems which have arisen have been caused by the well-publicized activities of private Australian groups. Scope for Government action is thus limited. In the problem of Portuguese Timor, the Indonesians would probably prefer the Australian Government to be as uninvolved and as unobtrusive as possible. However, the visit by the Minister would seem the essential pre-condition to formulation by the new Government of policy.
  5. Perhaps the idea of a visit might now be floated in instructions to the Australian Ambassador in Jakarta as the culmination of a message emphasising the continuing importance Australia attaches to relations with Indonesia and recognizing the significance for Indonesia of Portuguese Timor.
  6. There is little else that the Government can do which has not already been done to limit the prejudice which the Timor question has caused to relations with Indonesia. However, it may be possible to remove, at least temporarily, one irritant to the relationship which is not mentioned in the attached submission. This is the frequent visits to Australia from Timor of Mr Ramos Horta of FRETILIN (the member of FRETILIN charged with foreign relations).lt would be quite proper, as I see it, for the Government, as a caretaker, not to receive Horta (or any other representative of FRETILIN) at the Ministerial level should he come to Australia again before 13 December. Such a decision would be welcome to Indonesia and I suggest that it be taken and conveyed to Indonesia.
  7. Should you agree to the above suggestions, a draft telegram to Jakarta is attached for consideration.2


[NAA: A1838, 3038/10/112, iii]