262 Mr A. T. Stirling, External Affairs Officer in London, to Department of External Affairs
Cablegram 88 LONDON, 29 January 1941, 7.40 p.m.
Portuguese Timor. Your telegram No. 197  and your telegram No.
I conveyed your views to the Far Eastern Department  whose comment is as follows:
We welcome the proposal of the Commonwealth Government to send someone to Timor since, as you know, we feel that it is urgent that somebody should be able to report to us authoritatively on the local situation and [should]  be in a position to keep an eye on Japanese activities. There is also the consideration that if possible we should have someone at Dilli who can represent, in an official way, the interests of the Commonwealth Government and the British interests in general. This latter consideration is of course a strong argument in favour of sending someone with official status.
There are, however, certain difficulties about the present proposal of the Commonwealth Government. In the first place it would be necessary to approach the Portuguese Government in order to obtain recognition of representative's official capacity. It is unlikely in our opinion that the Portuguese Government would accept an official who did not fall into one of the recognised categories such as Consul or Trade Commissioner. Even if they were eventually persuaded to agree to recognise some other official designation of Australian representative, there can be no doubt that, apart from the delay, which would be undesirable, Portugal would not give the Commonwealth representative higher status than Consul. This would have the disadvantage that if a Japanese Consul were appointed he would be regarded senior to the Commonwealth representative and probably entitled to greater facilities.
Moreover, there is a definite distinction between the position in Timor and that in New Caledonia. The latter territory is under Free French control and our position vis a vis the Free French movement is of course a very special one. In Portuguese territory we cannot expect to receive the same facilities.
For all these reasons we would submit for the consideration of the Commonwealth Government the desirability of their representative either being given Consular status or going to Timor in an entirely unofficial capacity for a limited period. From our point of view the former is preferable but if the Commonwealth Government prefer the latter, question of opening of a Consulate would still remain to be solved and would have to be pursued independently.
We should perhaps add that as a permanent appointment, a representative without recognised official status could achieve very little with the local authorities.