402 Minute from Parkinson to Feakes

Canberra, 19 January 1976


Indonesia and Timor

At a meeting with the Prime Minister today at which Tange, Menadue, Griffith and myself were present, various policy options were discussed in regard to Indonesia and Timor.

  1. The Prime Minister is particularly concerned that Indonesia may be in the process of a long drawn-out military failure in Timor. Lee (and also K. C. Lee)1 strongly suggested to the Prime Minister that Soeharto's position was not secure in Indonesia; that Mrs Soeharto's graft has now reached the point where the other Generals felt they were not getting enough of their share; that the sheer inefficiency and cost of Timor was placing strains on Soeharto's regime and could bring him down.
  2. Against this background the Prime Minister wants us to explore ways of persuading the Indonesians to switch from a military to a political operation in Timor. He says that the Minister and Renouf will be testing out this line in Jakarta today and tomorrow.2
  3. In addition the Prime Minister has asked Tange to arrange a Defence Committee study of the strategic importance of Timor to Australia; the strategic effects of a long drawn-out and deteriorating situation in Timor in which outside assistance is sought and obtained i.e. supply of arms etc. He also said that he was concerned about Indonesian-American relations and that he was very disturbed to hear that the American Administration had made a secret decision to suspend military aid to Indonesia;3 he foresaw a great increase in Congressional attention to the moralities and events of the Timor situation. Tange's paper is to touch on all of this but we too need to consider our relationship with the Americans in regard to Indonesia and he would like consideration to be given urgently as to whether we should be seeking to involve the Americans more closely in the problem.
  4. The general thrust of what the Prime Minister said is contrary to the Secretary's cable4 attached. He recognises that line of thought as being valid but now doubts whether it is a viable policy. He seems now to be much more concerned about developing lines of policy which are based on conscience but avoiding too much emphasis on self-determination.
  5. As part of the Defence Committee consideration, the Prime Minister wants a JIG/Foreign Affairs assessment of not only the military situation and prospect in Timor but also of the internal position of the Soeharto regime.
  6. Where all this leaves us in respect of the Minister's proposed draft Cabinet Submission I am not sure. I suggest you suspend further work on it until the Minister returns and talks to the Prime Minister and we in tum have a chance to discuss the issue again with the Minister.

[NAA: A11443,[14]]