458 Cablegram to Jakarta

Canberra, 3 June 1976



Timor: Balibo

  1. We leave it to you to assess the best timing for your next approach. The Indonesians are doubtless still smarting from our decision to turn down the PGET invitation to attend the Dili meeting.2 We also recognise that they will react very sharply to any further enquiries about newsmen. We have to leave it to you to persuade them of the need to pursue the matter. Obviously things are going to be very difficult with the Indonesians clearly unlikely to concede that their forces were involved at Balibo. You will wish to make the point, however, that Australian press and public opinion believes that Indonesian forces were [so] involved, and that the longer the matter is strung out, the more the blame will be sheeted home to the Indonesian government in general rather than simply to the m[e]n on the spot in Balibo, whether they were Indonesian troops or not.
  2. You might say that it is in this context that we are obliged to follow up Martins' references to Dading, Andreas, Taolin and the others mentioned in the Price/Martins transcript.3 In fact, what we have to ask is whether the named persons would be available and prepared to be interviewed on any knowledge they may have on the events at Balibo on 16 October.
  3. As we have already said we know that the Indonesians may react very strongly to such a request but the approval4 must be made. Moreover, we think that at this point we must also register with them the separate approach the Government has now received from the solicitors of the Victorian branch of the Australian Journalists Association in which it is argued that all evidence (not just Martins) points to involvement of Indonesian forces and thus to a case for an approach by the Australian Government to the Indonesian Government seeking fmancial compensation for the families.5 You should say that the VJA submission is still under study in the Australian Government but that clearly we face the prospect of finding ourselves [in] a position where we may be obliged to make formal representations to Indonesia.

[NAA: Al838, 3038/10112/4, v]