208 Cablegram to Jakarta

Canberra, 3 September 1975


Portuguese Timor

Ministers have not at this point engaged themselves on the details of the Joint Authority. Indeed they have taken the view that in the absence of Portuguese-Indonesian agreement there is no firm proposal at this stage for Australia to consider. We are thus not yet in a position to state firmly whether Australia would participate in the proposed Joint Authority.

  1. It is difficult to be more forthcoming in the absence of more precise information on what the Joint Authority should be expected to do. In this connection we have noted the draft terms of reference drawn up by the Indonesians (JA15751). Our first impression is that what the Indonesians have in mind would involve the Joint Authority, and by extension, Australia, much more deeply in the decolonisation process in Portuguese Timor than we have hitherto been prepared to contemplate. This could create considerable difficulties for the Australian Government which has all along made it clear that it is unable to take on responsibilities of a colonial character in Portuguese Timor. We are also concerned about the Portuguese emphasis (as conveyed by Dr Santos) on the role of the Joint Authority as directing and controlling what would be essentially an Indonesian task force.
  2. In view of these difficulties, we have, for your own information only, been giving consideration in the Department to possible alternative regionalisation arrangements which might help overcome Australian difficulties and which at the same time could prove more attractive to both Indonesia and Portugal. But none of this thinking has been taken very far and in particular we have not yet been able to engage Ministers on the matter.
  3. We hope to have further discussions with the Acting Minister on this and other matters relating to Portuguese Timor tomorrow, 4 September, and might then be able to provide more definitive advice. Meanwhile, we could not, of course, object if Mochtar wishes to approach New Zealand regarding possible participation in the Joint Authority.

[NAA: A10463, 801/13/11/1, xiii]