171 Cablegram to Jakarta

Canberra, 19 August 1975


Portuguese Timor

For Dan

Would you please advise Woolcott that the Prime Minister and Minister last night, 18 August, discussed the question of a message to President Soeharto. They had before them O.JA1240.1

The Prime Minister wishes Woolcott to be advised that he agrees generally with paragraphs 28 and 29 of Jakarta telegram O.JA1201.2

  1. As an alternative to sending a message from the Prime Minister to President Soeharto, the Prime Minister and the Minister also discussed the possibility of sending Woolcott instructions setting out the Prime Minister's views on the current situation in Portuguese Timor. The idea was that he and other senior members of the Embassy would be able to draw on the Prime Minister's views in discussions with the Indonesians, including Yoga Sugama.
  2. No decision has yet been reached between the two possible courses of action (instructions to Woolcott or message to President Soeharto) or on the contents of the instructions or the message. The two Ministers had two main considerations in mind in the discussions. First they noted that in paragraph 21 of O.JA1201 Yoga Sugama was reported as saying that, because of the relations of confidence between President Soeharto and Mr Whitlam, the President would both want to know Mr Whitlam's views on the situation (in Portuguese Timor) and to have the benefit of his advice. Mr Whitlam and Senator Willesee considered that a failure to respond to this invitation might well be misinterpreted by the Indonesians. The second consideration which the Ministers discussed was the need, in dealing with the question of Portuguese Timor, to take into account the likely unfavourable Australian domestic reactions to Indonesian intervention there. There would be a considerable risk in failing to make Australian views on Portuguese Timor known to the Indonesians at this juncture. It would seem natural that the heads of two friendly governments should be in touch about the recent developments, but clearly caution should inform the nature of any approach we make.
  3. It was agreed between the Prime Minister and the Minister that in the light of these considerations, Woolcott should be asked whether he had any ideas on the best way of responding to Yoga Sugama's request for Mr Whitlam's views and on the content of what might be included in those views. The two Ministers understood that unless developments led to his early return to Jakarta Woolcott would be away in Sumatra until 3 September and that his absence would serve to explain to the Indonesians why Sugama's remarks had for the time being not been followed up.

[NAA: Al0463, 801/13/1111, xi]