I wish to confirm that Australia has not yet taken a decision on whether or not to accept membership of the joint authority.
In this context you might be interested in what the Prime Minister and Acting Foreign Minister, Mr Whitlam, said in Parliament on 2 September in answer to an Opposition Member's question. He said:
'No definite propositions were put to the Minister and me by the Portuguese emissary because no agreements have been made between him and the Indonesian authorities and no discussions have yet taken place between him and any of the parties in Timor. When discussions have taken place in Timor, when arrangements have been made with Indonesia, that will be time enough for the Australian Government to consider any positive proposal. It was made clear to Dr Santos that Australia could not take on any responsibilities of a colonial character in Portuguese Timor. Australia's role in any international or regional arrangements would need to be concentrated on essential humanitarian areas. The government is already extending considerable help to the International Red Cross in the relief operations it has now launched in Portuguese Timor.'
This response suggests that the Portuguese side has not, in fact, yet extended a formal invitation to serve on the joint authority, although we are well aware through you that they want us to do so. The Prime Minister's answer also suggests that he wishes to defer making a final decision until some agreement has been reached between Portugal and Indonesia.1
I must thank you for the trouble you have been taking to keep me so well informed during the last 10 days.
[NAA: A10463, 801/13/11/1, xiii]