257 Full Cabinet Submission by Sir Frederick Stewart, Minister for External Affairs

Agendum 561 25 January 1941

AUSTRALIAN REPRESENTATIVE IN PORTUGUESE TIMOR

The question of official British representation in Portuguese Timor was raised by the British Consul-General, Batavia [1], early in December last. The Consul-General expressed the view that if, as was reported, Japan intended to establish a Consulate at Dilli, a British consular representative should also be stationed there.

He suggested that in view of the strategic importance and proximity of Timor to Australia, the Commonwealth Government might be interested in the question.

2. A similar suggestion for the appointment of a British consular representative at Dilli was made at the end of December by the Minister for the Army [2], in the light of discussions which he had had at General Headquarters, Singapore.

3. The Commonwealth Government requested the views of the United Kingdom Government on the proposal on December 30th [3], adding that in view of the inauguration of the Darwin-Dilli air service and authentic reports of Japanese encroachment on Portuguese Timor, it would welcome the appointment of a consular representative at Dilli. The Foreign Office, however, saw difficulties in the way of the appointment of a regular British consular representative, suggesting instead that the Commonwealth Government might consider either (a) the despatch of a representative to Dilli who would nominally be attached to the Darwin-Dilli Air Service, but whose commission would be much wider and cover Japanese activities in the colony, or (b) the opening of an Australian consulate at Dilli. [4]

4. My Department and the Department of Civil Aviation after consultation are now agreed that the position could be best met by the appointment to Dilli of an officer with a rank and status short of that of Consul, but corresponding with that pertaining to the present Official Representative of the Commonwealth of Australia in New Caledonia. An officer with a designation of this character would have wide and elastic functions and, provided he were acceptable to the Portuguese Government, could perform a useful role. It is considered that an officer of the Civil Aviation Department would have the best qualifications for the post in that at the present stage of development of Portuguese Timor, the international aspect is principally related to air activities.

5. A suitable officer for appointment is available in the person of Mr. David Ross, Chief Inspector, Flying Branch, Department of Civil Aviation. Mr. Ross's experience is appropriate both for the technical and the general functions of the post. He is willing to accept appointment for six months' residence in Timor, when he can be replaced with a similar officer.

6. It had originally been intended that on the establishment of the Darwin-Dilli air service a Qantas officer should in any case be stationed at Dilli. This will, however, be unnecessary if a Government representative as proposed above is appointed. The cost of establishment, in addition to the existing salary of the officer referred to, would be small, the principal items being a tropical allowance of, say 300 per annum, and the cost of erection of suitable bachelor quarters.

7. In default of a regular consular appointment by the United Kingdom Government, the proposed arrangement is the most satisfactory from the Commonwealth's point of view. The appointment of an official representative in New Caledonia has worked successfully, and it can be expected that the presence of an official with the same status at Dilli will in the same way enable our requirements to be substantially met as regards information and contact with the local administration, without committing the Commonwealth Government to a formal Consular establishment. It is intended that the representative should have means of cypher communication with the Department of External Affairs. As in the case of the representative at Noumea, he would function under the general direction of the Minister for External Affairs.

8. It is therefore recommended that Cabinet approve:

(a) That an approach be made to the Portuguese Government with the object of securing agreement to the appointment of an Official Representative of the Commonwealth of Australia at Dilli.

(b) On receipt of the Portuguese Government's consent, that authority be given to proceed with the appointment along the lines and on the general conditions mentioned in this memorandum. [5]

MINISTER FOR EXTERNAL AFFAIRS

1 H. F. C. Walsh. See his unnumbered savingram (188 to London) of 10 December 1940 on file AA:A981, Timor 20.

2 P. C. Spender.

3 See cablegram 676 on file AA:A981, Aviation 50.

4 See cablegram 7 of 3 January 1941 from A. T. Stirling, External Affairs Officer in London, on file AA:A981, Australia 248.

5 This Agendum was approved by Full Cabinet on 6 February. See AA:A2679, vol. 5. See also Document 274.

[AA:A2697, VOL. 5]