383 Record of Conversation Between Renouf and Yoshida

Canberra, 17 December 1975



Courtesy Call by the Japanese Ambassador1

  1. Mr Renouf said that Foreign Affairs had found itself in an awkward position over the Timor problem. Initially the Department had counselled in favour of self-determination for the East Timorese people. Senator Willesee had agreed with this approach but Mr Whitlam had been in favour of the colony's incorporation into Indonesia. Mr Whitlam had expressed this view in talks earlier this year with President Soeharto and had, in fact, gone outside his brief in discussing Australia's position on the issue.
  2. Foreign Affairs had therefore been faced with the difficult task of reconciling the diverging views of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. The result had been the irreconcilable position of advocating the incorporation of East Timor in Indonesia on the basis of the self­-determination of the East Timorese people. Foreign Affairs had been criticised for its silence on the whole issue by the Australian press and publicly by a former Australian Consul-General to Dili. The Department, however, could hardly take a strong public position on an issue which had become a point of contention between the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. The Timor question posed an additional problem for Australia in that an independent Timor could encourage separatism in Papua New Guinea.
  3. The new Government's attitude towards the Timor question had made matters easier for the Department. The Government had criticised the use of force by Indonesia and had spoken out in favour of self-determination for the East Timorese people. The Government had felt that the integrity of Australia's foreign policy would suffer if the Government failed to take this approach.

[NAA: A 10463, 801/13/11/1, xviii]