384 Record of Conversation Between Peacock and Thayib

Canberra, 17 December 1975

CONFIDENTIAL

Australia/Indonesia Relations: Portuguese Timor

MrThayib1 referred to his program over the past eight days, during which he had been observing the progress of the Australian election campaign. He then turned to Australia-Indonesia relations and Timor. He suggested that the Liberal Party might be more sympathetic towards Indonesia than had been the Labor Party. The Minister noted that there were elements in the Labor Party which were unhappy with the military government in Indonesia. This kind of feeling did not exist in the Liberal Party. He stressed the importance which the Australian Government placed on its relationship with Indonesia.It was one of the Government's highest foreign policy priorities.

  1. Mr Thayib referred to a newspaper report that Mr Malik had accused Australia of supporting FRETILIN. The Minister said that the Australian Government supported no party in Timor, and certainly not FRETILIN, whose UDI he had criticised less than two weeks ago. It was true that some trade unionists and academics, and elements of the press, were sympathetic towards FRETILIN, and he had been disturbed by this anti-Indonesian sentiment. It did not represent the views of his Government, which placed great emphasis on a strong and close relationship with Indonesia. The present situation was merely a temporary aberration. The Minister stressed that the Government had previously been operating in a caretaker role, bound to the policies of the previous Government. However, this was no longer the case. The General Assembly vote was now over and done with. The present Government's position was more accurately reflected in the statement made by the Australian representative at the Security Council last night.2 Australia's view was that there should be some act of self-determination and that hostilities should cease. Indonesia also supported self-determination in Timor, and he thought had indicated that it too sought an end to hostilities.
  2. Mr Thayib asked the Minister about trade union boycotts against Indonesia. The Minister made it clear that the Government deplored such actions. The Minister said that the primary responsibility for this issue was with the Minister for Labour.
  3. Mr Thayib asked whether Australia's economic problems would affect its aid to Indonesia The Minister replied that inflation within Australia was not affected by overseas aid; the economic situation involved domestic measures. Indonesia was the second largest recipient of Australian aid after Papua New Guinea (to which Australia had a special responsibility), and this situation would continue. The only thing which might change could be the nature and direction of the aid, and this would depend on what the Indonesian Government wanted, rather than the Australian Government.
  4. Mr Thayib referred to the meetings which had taken place between Mr Whitlam and President Soeharto. These had been important to Indonesia, and he wondered if such meetings would continue. The Minister affirmed that they would. He said that his first overseas trip as Minister would probably be to Indonesia, and that it was likely that the Prime Minister's first trip (towards the middle of next year) would take in Jakarta and other ASEAN capitals, as well as China and Japan.

[NAA: Al838, 935/17/3, xiii]