Letter from Menzies to Salazar

Canberra, 15 October 1963

I have studied your letter of 1st March, 1963,1 and discussed it with my colleagues, and I thank you for furnishing me with your further views. We have naturally given your arguments close and careful attention. In spite of this, we have regretfully come to the conclusion that our points of view are no nearer as a result of this exchange of views. It is, I believe, important that I should offer you my further views, especially in view of developments in South-East Asia.

Your Excellency's letter discusses the question of an Australian dominion or condominium in Portuguese Timor. Let me say that this is not a solution which we have ever contemplated or would contemplate. It is a solution which in my view would appeal neither to the Timorese nor to the Australian people.

I need scarcely assure you that Australia will not be drawn into inadvertent support of forces which work for the disintegration of Western Europe. We are deeply conscious of our European heritage and anxious that Europe for its part should maintain its interest in and awareness of our part of the world.

Your Excellency refers to Australia's membership of the United Nations Committee of Twenty-four as providing the Australian Government with opportunities to help preserve the status quo. With respect, Your Excellency, it is our judgment that support cannot be won in the Committee of Twenty-four or elsewhere in the United Nations for maintaining the status quo. The question to which I would sincerely invite Your Excellency's attention is whether the Portuguese Government could indicate prospects for the future of the Timorese which would be of a character to attract support in the United Nations, thereby creating a positive sentiment in the United nations that Portuguese Timor should be protected from outside pressures. I cannot feel that such a will exists in the United Nations at present.

In view of the current disturbed situation in South-East Asia, I am sure you have carefully evaluated the assurances you have received from the Government of Indonesia that it has no claim on Timor against the knowledge that Indonesia has declared that it supports all anti-colonial movements. Your notice will no doubt have been drawn to reports in the Indonesian official news agency in September of a rebel movement in Timor asking Indonesia's recognition and help.

These and other statements seem to me to make clear that if there is what Indonesia regards as an 'independence' movement in Portuguese Timor, Indonesia would believe, or at any rate say, that she has an obligation to support it. It therefore seems to me worthy of consideration whether Portugal would not be wise to secure the interests of the United Nations in Portuguese Timor before such an 'independence' movement develops rather than after it is claimed to exist.

I am, of course, familiar with the arguments of your own Government and the principles to which it adheres, particularly as expressed in your speech delivered at Lisbon on 12th August, 1963. Nor would I wish you to regard me as an impertinent adviser. But in all friendliness, and with no illusions about Indonesian tactics, I still say that I am concerned that the attitude of the Portuguese Government and of those who are opposed to its policies will lead to a further series of events which will promote the interest of neither side and which may have wider international implications. May I take this opportunity of sending you the text of a broadcast which I made on 6th September, 1963, in the course of a visit I myself made to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I hope you may see in my own Government's approach something of our sense of trusteeship towards these territories and of our continuing effort to bring about the conditions under which the peoples of the territories can freely choose a future separate from Australia.

Accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

[NAA: Al838, 3038/10/1, iii]