8 Submission to Willesee

Canberra, 24 May 1974


Portuguese Timor

The political changes in Portugal are bound to affect Portugal's policy towards its overseas territories, including Timor. The possibility of change in Portuguese Timor is of interest to Australia, not least because of its effect on Indonesia, which is the regional country most concerned. The attitude that Australia adopts could influence its relations with Indonesia in an important way. In addition we have direct interests of our own in Timor (for example, oil).

  1. We hope shortly to send two officers to Portuguese Timor in order to make a first-hand assessment of the situation there. The officers concerned are Mr A. D. McLennan, the head of the Indonesian Section in the Department, and Mr J. Dunn, a former Australian Consul in Dili and officer of this Department, who now works in the Parliamentary library. Following on the closure of our Consulate at Dili in 1971, we made arrangements with the Portuguese for visits to the territory. The embassy at Jakarta has reporting responsibility for Portuguese Timor as well as for the Indonesian half of the island. But in present circumstances we consider that a visit from Canberra would be more prudent.
  2. The consulate at Dili was closed down as an economy measure because it had done little business for several years and yielded little political information of value. The changes which have occurred in Portugal have increased the importance to us of Portuguese Timor; and we believe that we should now consider the idea of re-opening the consulate. The visiting officers will look into any problems that might be involved in doing so.
  3. While we do not intend making any announcement of the visit or of the fact that the officers making it will be looking into the question of re-opening our consulate, we should not intend trying to keep these arrangements secret-unless you want us to do so. We shall have to seek Portuguese agreement to the visit and we shall be letting the Indonesians know what we are about. (They and the Taiwanese are represented in Dili.)1


First Assistant Secretary

South Asia Division

[NAA: A1838, 3038/10/1, vi]