64 Minute from Williams to Joseph

Canberra, 9 December 1974

SECRET

Portuguese Timor

Reference our discussion on Friday afternoon on your draft submission on Timor.1

  1. I would make two general comments:
    1. The argument in paragraph 7 that the Australian interests (listed in the second sentence) would be 'best served' by Timor's incorporation into Indonesia would need a lot more than this paper contains to make it convincing. It implies that a reasonably responsible independent Timor would not serve our interests in these areas. In any event even if the assumptions were correct, which I doubt, they do not constitute the main reason why Australia might prefer to see Timor incorporated into Indonesia-this is the strategic/defence argument in the latter half of paragraph 7.
    2. The formulation in paragraph 8 suggests that incorporation and self-determination are co-equal factors in our attitude towards Portuguese Timor. This is the area surely in which there is the greatest room for differences both between the Government and between us and the Indonesians. Self-determination is a common thread in all three attitudes.
  2. In the light of the above I suggest you might consider the following re-draft of paragraph 7:
    'Australia ... Portuguese Timor. The main Australian interests in Portuguese [Timor] derive from its proximity to Australia and the important shipping routes between Australia and Asia, its nearness to our sea bed resources zone and our small commercial stake. None of these are likely to be significantly affected either by the emergence of a responsible independent Portuguese Timor or by Timor's incorporation into Indonesia. However, if Portuguese Timor is not incorporated into Indonesia it could become a source of tension with Indonesia and between Indonesia and other neighbouring countries (including Australia). It is for this reason that as part of our policy we have favoured continued association of Portuguese Timor with Indonesia, recognising that Portuguese Timor is part of the Indonesian world.'2

Paragraph 8:

'The Australian Government does, however, have a firm commitment to self-determination .. .'3

[NAA: Al838, 3038110/1, xiv]