East Timor and Australia- Twenty-five years of the policy debate

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NAPSNet Special Report

Recommended Citation

James Cotton, "East Timor and Australia- Twenty-five years of the policy debate", NAPSNet Special Reports, September 21, 1999, https://nautilus.org/napsnet/napsnet-special-reports/east-timor-and-australia-twenty-five-years-of-the-policy-debate/

September 21, 1999

This is the latest in an ongoing series of articles on the crisis 
in East Timor.  This article is by James Cotton of the Australian Defence 
Force Academy.

A guide to all NAPSNet East Timor Special Reports is available 
online at:


East Timor and Australia- 
twenty-five years of the policy debate
James Cotton

"Indonesia's incorporation of East Timor is the greatest difficulty in 
the relationship between that country and Australia."
-- Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, 
Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, as cited in "Australia's 
Relations with Indonesia" (Canberra: AGPS, 1993), p. 95.

Australian interests in East Timor

The issue of East Timor loomed large in the foreign and security policy 
debates in Australia in 1999. The social and political crisis which 
gripped Indonesia following the economic meltdown in Asia was justifiably 
a topic of major concern and prompted preparations for security 
contingencies as well as programs of economic and political support. Yet 
it seemed that almost as much attention was devoted to a territory of 
some 14,874 km2 with a population of around 800,000, a minor part (albeit 
unwillingly) of Indonesia since 1976. To understand why East Timor was 
the focus of such attention it is necessary to consider first the various 
Australian interests-and interested publics-that have been involved.

Although not a major issue in earlier times, economic interest in East 
Timor is as old as Australian federation. While it was far from a 
profitable business, the first oil concession sought by an Australian 
business dates from 1905. In more recent times, seabed oil and gas 
reserves in the Timor Gap have proven sufficiently large to justify a 
program of exploration and recovery. The bulk of the proven reserves are 
of gas, of which there is presently an excess of world supply, but longer 
term this will comprise a significant resource. Most of the fields are in 
the area of joint exploration as defined by the 1989 Timor Gap treaty 
thus necessitating an accord with whatever authorities control the 
territory. With a change in the political status of the territory, new 
arrangements will have to be negotiated.

Timor has been a concern to Australians for reasons of security for as 
long as it has been a subject of commercial interest. Rumours of 
Portuguese plans to abandon or Japanese intentions to acquire East Timor 
were recurrent in the decades before World War II. A small Australian 
expeditionary force was sent to pre-empt Japanese occupation in 1941, and 
a bloody guerilla campaign-in which many Timorese supporters of the 
Australians lost their lives-ensued. In 1975-the year of communist 
victories in the Indochina states-a powerful factor conditioning some 
attitudes to the political forces emerging in East Timor was the 
conviction that they might seek to establish a communist aligned regime, 
thus perhaps offering a foothold for a Russian or Chinese presence 500 km 
from Australia's shores. From 1998 the spectre of a disunited or 
'Balkanised' Indonesia has similarly haunted policy makers. An 
independent East Timor might open the way to other regions seeking a 
separate political identity. The resulting disorder might generate 
refugee flows as well as military uncertainty. In May 1995, a boat 
carrying 18 East Timorese asylum seekers arrived in Darwin, the first 
'boat people' to arrive from the territory.

East Timor has also functioned as something of a test for the notion of 
regional engagement and especially the long-standing policy of seeking 
closer relations with Indonesia. A stronger identification of Australia 
with the region means little without a comprehensive accord with 
Indonesia, and to this end aid, investment, security and political ties 
have all been sought by successive Australian governments. An influential 
Indonesia lobby has argued in favour of a realist acceptance of the 'New 
Order' as the only basis for fruitful cooperation. And yet Jakarta's 
policy in East Timor has run counter to so many of the fundamentals held 
by Australians regarding good governance and humanitarian values. The 
army was used as an instrument of rule, the human rights of those who 
contested Indonesian sovereignty were systematically violated, political 
and even cultural expression were constrained. Every crisis in the 
territory stirred debate on the desirability and morality of seeking 
systematic accord with such a regime. And the range of opinions expressed 
on the issue was exceedingly broad, with some alleging that critics of 
Indonesia were engaged in a 'vendetta', while others characterised 
Australian policy as nothing less than 'Finlandisation'.1 

The question of East Timor has, in the process, become a major item in 
domestic politics. Timor has provided the substance for major differences 
that have been as much inter- as intra-party, differences which are as 
important now as they were in the 1970s. Even within the Labor Party, the 
Whitlam policy of 1975 was soon regarded as acquiescing in Indonesian 
occupation and was repudiated after a bitter internal debate, and from 
that time until the recognition by the Hawke government in 1985 of 
Indonesian sovereignty, differences between the party leadership and some 
members of the rank and file were pronounced. The Timor Gap treaty, and 
the policy adopted towards East Timor refugees, who the Labor government 
insisted were citizens of Portugal and thus ineligible for refugee 
status, continued to keep the issue alive in the party. In opposition, 
Andrew Peacock was critical of Whitlam's policy, though as Foreign 
Minister (from November 1975) he rapidly accommodated to the control of 
the territory by Indonesia at a time (in 1978) when strategies of 
forcible resettlement and resultant famine were being used in an attempt 
to break the resistance led by the pro-independence Fretilin movement. In 
the 1998 elections the emphasis accorded to human rights issues in the 
Labor Party platform, and especially the statement in support of 'self-
determination' for the East Timorese, moved the party again towards 
potential disputation with Indonesia as well as with its own record.

There is a sense in which Foreign Minister Alexander Downer's energetic 
efforts to contribute to a settlement of the issue are in the activist 
mould of his predecessor. This marks a continuation across 
administrations of differing party complexion of the strategy whereby 
Australia's interests, especially in matters of regional concern, are 
furthered by devoting exceptional resources to issues neglected by 
others, or where the country possesses some special expertise. At the 
same time they are in marked contrast since, while Downer similarly 
acknowledges the vital importance of the relationship with Indonesia, his 
recognition of the legitimate aspirations for self-determination on the 
part of the people of East Timor is strongly at variance with many of the 
policies pursued by Gareth Evans when Foreign Minister.

Australia's concern with East Timor therefore also reflects unease and 
disquiet regarding past failures. From the first, Australian eye 
witnesses and East Timor hands, including Jill Jolliffe, Roger East, Greg 
Shackleton, Michael Richardson and most importantly Jim Dunn, provided 
sophisticated and influential accounts of events in the present 
territory.2  The presence of East Timorese refugees in the country 
(including Xanana Gusmao's immediate family) has served to remind 
Australians of those failures, just as it has also focussed attention on 
each new outrage by the Indonesian administration, of which the 1991 
Santa Cruz cemetery massacre was the most prominent prior to the collapse 
of the 'New Order'. The Balibo incident in 1975, and the widespread 
belief in the journalistic community that the Australian government knew 
almost immediately that Indonesian forces were directly involved in the 
deaths of the journalists there but withheld this information in the 
interests of better relations with Indonesia, has undoubtedly encouraged 
interest in the Timor issue among the media.

In all, the Timor issue has been able to mobilise many interest groups 
and publics. For some in 1999, the focus was upon the security impact of 
the creation of a new and aid dependent close neighbour, or upon the 
consequences that a new political status for East Timor would have for 
the regions of Indonesia as that country proceeded in its uncertain way 
to the reordering of the political system in the post-Soeharto era. All 
of these matters are of the greatest importance for Australia, and the 
choice of policy to deal with them and their implications has been a 
major national priority. But for others, the Timor debate was not so much 
about the future but about the past. Its focus was on the record of 
successive governments in their handling of the Timor issue, but 
especially on the role then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam played-or did 
not play-in the events which led to the occupation of East Timor by 
Indonesian forces in December 1975. It was also, to that extent, focussed 
not primarily upon Timor but upon Australia, and thus on the success and 
failure of leaderships and political institutions.

Debating Australia's past role

While the remarks of President Habibie in June 1998, that Indonesia was 
considering granting special status to East Timor, and the pro-
independence demonstrations that ensued in the territory itself 
stimulated this second debate, it had proceeded almost from the time of 
Indonesian annexation. Like a water course that slows to a trickle but 
never quite disappears beneath the sands, the debate was kept alive 
through the 1980s by internal Labor Party disputation, the public 
reaction to the Timor Gap treaty of 1989, the Santa Cruz Cemetery 
massacre of 1991, and the new testimony that appeared in 1999 on the fate 
of the five Australian-based newsmen killed in Balibo in October 1975. 
Internal party dynamics played their part. It received perhaps its 
greatest impetus from the statement of Labor Foreign Affairs spokesman 
Laurie Brereton, who reflecting upon his party's record on the Timor 
issue, had the following judgement to offer:

"it is a matter of enduring regret that Whitlam did not speak more 
forcefully and clearly in support of an internationally supervised act of 
self-determination as the only real means of achieving a lasting and 
acceptable resolution of East Timor's status. At best Whitlam's approach 
was dangerously ambiguous, and by mid 1975 increasingly unsustainable."3 

Whitlam's response was an acerbic attack on an individual he described as 
'a shallow, shabby, shonky foreign affairs spokesman'.4  At the same 
time, documents appeared in the public domain providing further details 
of Whitlam's diplomatic dealings with Soeharto, most notably a letter 
written to the President in February 1975, and the record of the Whitlam-
Soeharto exchange in Yogyakarta in September 1974.5  Both have been 
extensively analysed, and as more of such material becomes available this 
analysis will be repeated.

To some degree, there is room for differences of opinion on the 
pragmatics of these exchanges. When, for example, Whitlam says in 
February 1975 that 'no Australian Government could allow it to be thought 
... that it supported' Indonesian 'military action against Portuguese 
Timor', it could be alleged that this referred to the appearance of the 
matter as opposed to its reality, which could be different, an issue 
which has moved many Australian columnists to comment.6  This 
interpretation is supported when the likely extent of Whitlam's knowledge 
of Indonesia's campaign to orchestrate integration is taken into account. 
But setting these matters aside at this stage, what is readily apparent 
in these and the other records like them is that Whitlam's preferences 
were clearly stated and evidently grounded in principles of national 
policy he regarded as important and which he believed or hoped would be 
understood by his interlocutors.7 

Whitlam made it clear that he believed the best course for Timor after 
Portuguese control was relinquished was to become part of Indonesia. At 
the same time he held that the future of Timor should be a matter for the 
people themselves to decide through an act of self-determination. The 
principles in question were, respectively, the recognition of Indonesia's 
national aspirations and claims in a manner consistent with a post-
colonial approach to regional policy on the part of Australia, and an 
affirmation of the importance of self-determination.

Both of these principles were advanced because they were desirable as 
general rules. Self-determination accorded with the egalitarian 
inheritance of the Labor Party as well as comprising one of those 
yardsticks which Dr H V Evatt had sought to apply to the workings of the 
United Nations, thereby defending the role of smaller countries and 
populations against the claims of the major powers.8  But self-
determination was a difficult principle to apply in a territory so poorly 
prepared for independence. Moreover, Whitlam's critical if not 
disparaging remarks on the predominant role of mestiço political leaders 
in East Timor suggested that he believed that an act of self-
determination would hardly lead to a result which truly reflected the 
opinions of the majority.

Anti-colonialism, on the other hand, provided a much clearer standard for 
Australian policy. Indonesia was a state formed after a long and bitter 
struggle against colonialism during which Australia (under a Labor 
government) played a positive role in pressuring the Netherlands to 
relinquish its claims. Indonesia was an important actor in the non-
aligned world, and whatever shape the Southeast Asian region would assume 
in the future would depend significantly upon choices made in Jakarta. 
Friendship with Indonesia-however favourable this was to Australia's 
material interests-was therefore also an affirmation of Australia's 
determination to support a post-colonial world order. Moreover it was 
Whitlam's personal assessment, an assessment he repeated in his statement 
on the UDT (Timorese Democratic Union) coup of 11 August 1975, that East 
Timor was 'in many ways part of the Indonesian world'.9  This assessment 
had some historical basis; what was of greater significance was that it 
was held by an individual with a keen historical sense who was inclined 
to pay especial attention to historical claims.
Lest this position not appear as one of principle, it should be seen in 
the context of the contemporary alternative. For long the Australian 
government supported the presence of the Netherlands in Irian Jaya 
because it was considered that this was of strategic advantage to 
Australia. The claims of the inhabitants for self-determination were not 
stressed, and Indonesia's assertion that it represented the decolonised 
successor state to all the territories of the Netherlands East Indies was 
rejected. Whitlam criticised this view as a perpetuation of a colonial 
arrangement, and supported the acquisition of Irian Jaya by Indonesia. He 
seems to have seen East Timor in the same light. As early as 1963 he 
referred to Portuguese East Timor as 'an anachronism' and warned that 'we 
would not have a worthy supporter in the world if we backed the 

In 1974 both of these preferences could be stated without any apparent 
contradiction between them. With the emergence of indigenous political 
movements in the territory, and especially the rise of Fretilin 
(Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor), along with a 
hardening of Indonesian resolve to influence the outcome in East Timor, a 
choice presented itself. Sufficient material is available to show that 
the government was very well informed on Indonesian military operations 
inside Indonesia. Material from the highly classified US National 
Intelligence Daily, the sources of which were available to Australia 
under the UKUSA intelligence sharing agreement (and which indeed depended 
in part on Australian intelligence assets) showed that by the end of 
August 1975 Indonesian determination to invade East Timor was clear, and 
all that was wanting was an appropriate pretext.11  Knowing that an 
Indonesian campaign of de-stabilisation was underway, and that an attempt 
to assess East Timorese opinion on the issue of integration with 
Indonesia would be unlikely to produce a positive result, the principle 
of self-determination was abandoned.

There were differences between Whitlam, Foreign Minister Willesee and 
Ambassador Woolcott on the equanimity with which these developments 
should be received; there was also the fact that with regard to this 
aspect of national policy, if not others, the Prime Minister was 
determined to have his head. But the drift of policy was clear enough. It 
must nevertheless have come as a great surprise to the Indonesian 
leadership that the deaths of the journalists at Balibo in October 1975 
did not elicit a stronger reaction.12 By this stage, however, Australia 
was immired in a domestic political crisis so grave as to unseat the 
government in the following month.

In the framing of policy towards Indonesia, Richard Woolcott, who became 
Australian Ambassador in March 1975, played a major role. Woolcott penned 
Whitlam's first remarks, after he had won the 1972 election, on the 
subject of the intended reform of foreign policy,13  and his advice from 
Jakarta was a powerful influence upon the Prime Minister's policy. 
Woolcott's views, as he unashamedly admitted, were based upon a pragmatic 
or realist approach to international affairs. By August 1975, if not 
before, he had formed the view that 'it is Indonesia's policy to 
incorporate Timor', a point he repeated in many of his cables to 
Canberra. That being so, he advocated a policy of 'disengagement' and 
allowing 'events to take their course'. And this would have a payoff, as 
he noted, in the form of presenting an opportunity then to negotiate the 
closing of the Timor Gap and reap the reward in the form of energy 
supplies. The basis of the policy advice he was offering was therefore 
clear. As he candidly admits: 'I know I am recommending a pragmatic 
rather than a principled stand but that is what national interest and 
foreign policy is all about.'14  So strongly held was Woolcott's view 
that nothing should be done to deter the Indonesian invasion since this 
would provoke a rift with Jakarta that, when transmitting to the 
Indonesian government the Ministerial Statement to the Senate by Willesee 
on 30 October 1975 (on the eve of the Indonesian landing at Dili) which 
referred to 'widespread reports that Indonesia is involved in military 
intervention in Portuguese Timor', he deleted this passage.15 

In the diplomacy of states it is rare for realism and idealism to be 
mutually supportive. But in this instance, the advice that Woolcott was 
proffering on pragmatic grounds and the principles which caused Whitlam 
to prefer the outcome of an Indonesian East Timor happened to coincide.
If Australia was never in a position to assert a claim to be a 'party 
principal' in the resolution of the Timor issue, why did self-
determination loom so large in Australian diplomacy? This raises the 
question of the assumptions that Whitlam brought to the discussion with 
Soeharto of the question of 'self-determination' for East Timor. Here, 
perhaps, Whitlam's chosen principle was seriously at odds with the 
realities of power in Jakarta. It should be recalled that Indonesia's own 
record on self-determination was not impressive. Australian forces were 
committed to the defence of the Borneo states of Malaysia in 1964 when 
Indonesia did not recognise the consultative processes of the Cobbold 
Commission which had been used to determine that the inhabitants of Sabah 
and Sarawak wished to join the federation. As well as the direct 
infiltration of Indonesian forces into Sarawak, Jakarta, in an operation 
masterminded by the military, also used money and other inducements to 
create a fifth column, the task of which was to destabilise the political 
order. The fall of Sukarno led to an improvement in Indonesia's relations 
with its Southeast Asian neighbours and the end of 'confrontation' with 
Malaysia, but the realisation of another of Sukarno's projects, the 
incorporation of Irian Jaya through an extremely dubious 'Act of Free 
Choice' conducted in 1969, demonstrated that his successor was committed 
to many of the same methods and instruments.

Indeed, there was a direct connection between the Irian Jaya and East 
Timor cases, a connection of which Whitlam must have been aware by the 
end of October 1974.16  The engineering of the 'Act of Free Choice' had 
been the task of Ali Moertopo, of Kostrad's Special Operations-OPSUS. So 
successful had Moertopo been in inducing and pressuring the Irianese 
representatives that in the 1969 musjawarah (consultation), all 1025 
delegates voted unanimously for integration, a result of North Korean 
finality. Even Cobbold in Borneo had conceded that 20 per cent of the 
populations of Sabah and Sarawak were not in favour of membership of 
Malaysia under any circumstances. Moertopo went on to organise the GOLKAR 
victory of 1971, a further instance of the importance accorded to public 
opinion in the 'New Order'. In October 1974 Moertopo was given the 
responsibility of negotiating with Portugal on Timor's future status, and 
in secret talks in Lisbon seems to have succeeded in convincing the then 
government of the rationale for integration. Australia was briefed on 
these developments through the Australian Embassy in Lisbon. By December 
that year OPSUS had launched a campaign of propaganda and intimidation 
against anti-integrationist groups in East Timor, the details of which 
were freely discussed in the Australian press, where the first public 
warnings of the possibility of a direct Indonesian military invasion were 
published. Moertopo's plans suffered a setback when during a second 
meeting with the Portuguese in March 1975, in the context of an alliance 
of UDT and Fretilin, Lisbon stated its preference for a three-year 
transition to possible independence under Portuguese auspices. The OPSUS 
response was to attempt to win over some members of the UDT leadership, 
and this seems ultimately to have been successful. The UDT coup of August 
is likely therefore to have been a further installment in the campaign of 
de-stabilisation, though Soeharto hesitated when the resultant disorder 
seemed to offer an excuse for direct intervention. These details were 
well known to the Australian government and its advisers.

Even setting these specifics aside, Whitlam knew only too well that 
Soeharto presided over a military regime that had come to power during an 
orgy of blood letting which had claimed the lives of at least 500,000 
civilians. The political practice of the 'New Order' was far from 
consultative, and it cannot be supposed that the incorporation of a 
lightly inhabited portion of an island at the extremity of the nation-
however, in practice, it was achieved-would have led to its inhabitants 
being treated with any greater attention to their wishes than was the 
case in oil-rich Aceh or timber-rich East Kalimantan. Albeit with the 
advantage of hindsight, the modern reader of the Whitlam-Soeharto 
exchanges cannot but be struck by the fantastical element in proceedings 
that saw the Australian Prime Minister taking the time to extract a 
solemn undertaking from the Indonesian leader regarding the latter's 
observance of a policy far removed from his experience and inclinations. 
Soeharto's thought processes at this time can only be the subject of 
speculation, but he might well have drawn the conclusion that given 
Whitlam's familiarity with his record what was being asked of him was to 
have Indonesia act with the appearance of conformity with the principle 
of self-determination. The fact that Indonesia bothered to stage an 'act 
of integration' of 31 May 1976-Australia refused to dispatch an envoy to 
attend on the grounds that as the UN was not involved its status was 
doubtful, though one from New Zealand was present-whereby East Timor's 
leaders agreed to Indonesian sovereignty may be seen in this light. 
Whatever the reservations the Australian government had regarding this 
charade, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser on an official visit to Jakarta in 
October acknowledged that a merger had taken place, though de facto 
recognition of East Timor's status as Indonesia's twenty-seventh province 
was to wait until January 1978.

Accommodating to integration

Timor remained an issue for successive Australian governments for several 
inter-related reasons, and the remembrance of what was and was not 
achieved in this period has also become an element in the contemporary 
debate. Though the precise dimensions of the tragedy are still disputed, 
the early impact of Indonesian rule was a disaster for the inhabitants. A 
combination of deliberate policy, whereby the military occupation sought 
to separate the Fretilin guerillas (now under the command of their 
military wing, Falintil) from food supplies, as well as neglect, saw many 
East Timorese die of hunger and disease. In 1979 the Indonesian Foreign 
Minister, Mochtar Kusumaatmadja estimated the number of dead as a result 
of the war at 120,000. Journalists who were permitted to travel in some 
parts of the island in October 1979 published photographs depicting 
widespread malnutrition. The refugee East Timorese community helped 
publicise these events, and a number of human rights and relief 
organisations kept the issue of Indonesian mis-rule before the Australian 
public. The Australian Campaign for Independent East Timor, for example, 
under an energetic leadership including communist Denis Freney, helped 
maintain a radio link based near Darwin which was the sole means by which 
Fretilin made its point of view known to the outside world in 1976.17 

Mr Whitlam, having retired from the Labor leadership, took a personal 
interest in the issue. In February 1982 he spent four days in the 
territory on a tour organised by the Jakarta CSIS (Center for Strategic 
and International Studies), the think-tank maintained by Ali Moertopo, 
publishing an account of his experiences which presented a generally 
positive image of the improvements that had been made under Indonesian 
administration. Indeed, he went so far as to chastise the Apostolic 
Administrator of Dili, Mgr Costa Lopes, for warning of the danger of 
renewed famine if Indonesian policies were not altered, lest this 
prejudice future Indonesian funding. Later in the year Whitlam appeared 
at the UN General Assembly Fourth (Decolonisation) Committee, arguing the 
case for withdrawing the issue from the business of the United Nations. 
He received a very critical reception from some African delegations, and 
was cross questioned in a notable exchange by Jose Ramos Horta, then 
Fretilin representative. Each year until 1982, the UN General Assembly 
had voted (albeit with a diminishing majority on each occasion) to 
support the claims of the East Timorese for self-determination; in 1983 a 
further vote on this question was deferred to allow the Secretary-General 
the opportunity to convene negotiations between Indonesia and Portugal. 
Meanwhile, a series of leaks of papers revealed more of the inside record 
of the government's dealings with Indonesia prior to December 1975.

Despite the preponderance of Indonesian military force, Fretilin-led 
guerilla resistance continued into the 1980s.18  During the election of 
1983, 'self-determination' for East Timor was Labor Party policy. 
Prominent members of the party, including Tom Uren, who had become deputy 
parliamentary leader after the 1975 elections, had argued the case for 
taking this view, and it had been adopted by Bill Hayden when he became 
opposition leader after Whitlam's failure to win office in the elections 
of December 1977. On his first visit to Jakarta as Foreign Minister, 
however, Hayden signaled his intention to abandon this position on the 
grounds that a more constructive relationship with the Indonesian 
leadership would give the government more leverage to raise human rights 
and other issues of concern. As a means to reconcile party opinion, the 
dispatch of a study group to visit the territory was negotiated with 
Indonesia. In July, former Defence Minister Bill Morrison led a 
delegation to East Timor which concluded positively on Indonesia's 
record. Though the tour was conducted during a cease-fire arranged the 
previous month, the itinerary of Morrison's group was entirely controlled 
by the military, and the members did not visit any Fretilin-held areas, 
despite being invited to do so.19  The cease-fire lasted until the 
following month, when a new offensive was launched. Despite the 
continuing violence, in August 1985 Prime Minister Bob Hawke recognised 
Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor. This is perhaps an instance of 
the phenomenon whereby parties in opposition can afford to be more 
outspoken than when faced with the responsibilities of government. While 
opposition foreign affairs spokesman in 1974-75, Andrew Peacock was 
critical of Whitlam's concessions to Indonesia, but as a member of the 
Fraser cabinet he accepted the fact of Indonesian control.

In 1979, following Australia's acceptance of the Indonesian occupation, 
negotiations had begun on the question of closing the Timor Gap. Under 
the Hawke government, these negotiations reached the point where joint 
exploration for hydrocarbon deposits was considered as a way of bridging 
the different views the two nations took of their respective rights to 
the resources of the sea-bed.20  Upon assuming the position of Foreign 
Minister in 1988, Gareth Evans expressed the determination to add 
'ballast' to the relationship between Australia and Indonesia, and to 
this end concluded the 'Timor Gap "Zone of Co-operation" Agreement' which 
was gazetted in February 1991 after a highly publicised signing ceremony 
held in an aircraft flying over the area in question.

This step underlined Australia's acceptance of Indonesia's sovereignty 
over East Timor, and further stimulated criticism from domestic critics 
who continued to dispute that policy. Within weeks it also induced 
Portugal to initiate proceedings against the legality of the Agreement 
before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Portugal argued that it 
violated Portugal's rights as administering power, and also infringed 
upon the rights of the East Timorese to self-determination. The 
Australian counter to this claim was to assert that if there was a 
dispute about the status of the Agreement, it was between Portugal and 
Indonesia and not with Australia. After a lengthy case the Court found 
that there was in fact a dispute between Australia and Portugal, but 
judgement on this dispute could not be given since it depended upon a 
prior assessment of the legality of Indonesia's role as a party to the 
Agreement. As Indonesia had not consented to such a role for the ICJ, no 
decision could be offered. However, the ICJ took the opportunity to 
observe that Portugal's contention that the right of peoples to self-
determination was 'irreproachable' in international law and usage, and 
consequently 'the Territory of East Timor remains a non-self-governing 
territory and its people has the right to self-determination.'21

Meanwhile, a further event had contrived to keep the Timor issue before 
the Australian public. On 12 November 1991, a memorial procession at the 
Santa Cruz Cemetery was attacked by Indonesian troops after independence 
banners were unfurled. On that day Dili was hosting a visit by the UN 
Special Rapporteur on Torture, Pieter Koojimans, who was holding talks 
with the local military leadership. The official death toll was first 
placed at 19, and later revised to 50, but local activists claimed that 
there were as many as 273 deaths with hundreds injured, and 255 
subsequently disappeared in large scale arrests. Not only were a number 
of foreign journalists witness to the event-two US journalists were 
beaten by the military at the scene-but an Australian-based human rights 
activist Kamal Bamadhaj was killed.22  The findings of the 'National 
Commission of Inquiry' established by President Soeharto after an 
international outcry was a public relations disaster for Jakarta, and 
tough talking from the military command in Dili on future manifestations 
of dissent added to Indonesia's problems. The Santa Cruz killings also 
stimulated a further review of past Labor Party policy on East Timor, 
with Prime Minister Hawke agreeing to meet a Fretilin delegation, and 
Gough Whitlam criticising the government's handling of Indonesia while 
defending his own record.23 

These events, which were captured on a widely screened film by a visiting 
British journalist, Max Stahl, brought to international attention the 
extent to which the resistance to Indonesian rule had moved from a 
guerilla to a civil focus. This change was identified with the rise to 
leadership of Xanana Gusmao24 , who founded the National Council for 
Maubere Resistance (CNRM) in 1989 as an umbrella organisation for all 
anti-integrationist groups. Gusmao's meeting with Australian journalist 
Robert Domm in September 1990 was the first such contact in 15 years, and 
did much to maintain Australian interest in the question.25  Similarly, 
his arrest in November 1992 and later sentencing demonstrated that the 
resistance was still active. An influential documentary on conditions in 
East Timor by John Pilger struck a particular chord in Australia.26

At this time the efforts of the United Nations to convene an all-
inclusive dialogue in East Timor, which was first initiated in 1983, 
began to bear fruit. As a result of this diplomacy, not only did 
Indonesia agree to improve the human rights situation in the territory 
and facilitate visits by human rights representatives, but Indonesian 
Foreign Minister Ali Alatas held direct talks with East Timorese 
spokesman Jose Ramos Horta in October 1994. A meeting of East Timorese 
groups from across the political spectrum was convened at Burg Schlaining 
in Austria in June 1995, producing an accord on steps to improve material 
and spiritual conditions in East Timor and to facilitate greater contact 
between members of the diaspora.27  The following year, the former 
chairman of the National Crime Authority, Tom Sherman, reviewing the 
record of the Balibo incident at government behest found that the death 
of the journalists in October 1975 was most likely the result of their 
being caught in cross-fire during a firefight. Though Sherman considered 
some new evidence, his findings did not satisfy those who held that the 
full record was still not available. But the joint award in October 1996 
of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Bishop of East Timor, Carlos Filipe 
Ximenes Belo and Jose Ramos Horta demonstrated that influential elements 
of international opinion were still unconvinced of Indonesia's insistence 
that the troubles in Timor were no more significant than 'a pebble in 
Indonesia's shoe'.28 

Though all these developments continued to remind Australians that most 
East Timorese remained unreconciled to Indonesian rule, the decisive 
shift in Australian opinion and policy was occasioned by the regional 
economic crisis which broke in 1997 and which issued in the demise of the 
Soeharto regime.

East Timor and the collapse of the 'New Order'

The collapse of the Soeharto regime in Indonesia prompted a wholesale 
reassessment of the policies and institutions of the 'New Order'. By the 
middle of 1998 this reassessment had extended not merely to a questioning 
of the central role of the armed forces in the state, but also to the 
consequences in some of the more far-flung regions of the nation of using 
the military as a vehicle for rule from the centre. Regarding Aceh and 
East Timor especially, there developed an awareness among more 
sophisticated leaders that the methods of the past could not be sustained 
but indeed constituted a very sorry legacy to be overcome. Thus President 
Habibie, after little more than a month in office, offered East Timor 
'special status' with wide autonomy though still within Indonesia. Since 
July 1976 East Timor had been officially the nation's twenty-seventh 
province, though in practice largely a fiefdom of the armed forces.

On the one hand, East Timorese campaigners for independence were 
emboldened. At the same time, facing dissention and civil disorder from 
Aceh to Ambon, and no longer guaranteed a political role in the emerging 
post-Soeharto political order, the Indonesian armed forces were forced to 
reassess their role and the extent to which they could rely upon old 
methods. The relaxation in the political atmosphere and the emergence of 
independent political movements raised the prospect that such 
developments might also be seen in East Timor.

The demise of Soeharto also led many Australians to question the 
modalities that had been chosen to cultivate closer relations with 
Indonesia. It should be recalled that as late as December 1995 the 
Australia-Indonesia agreement on enhancing security was hailed by some 
specialists as marking a new era in which Australia was seen to be 
accepted as an equal player through participating as a partner in the 
weaving of the highly personalised and vague web which seemed to 
characterise the Asian way of security. And there was some substance to 
this position, given Indonesia's central role in ASEAN as well as its 
strategic location. Emblematic of these modalities was Australia's 
acceptance of the occupation of East Timor. Successive Australian leaders 
and politicians had been prepared to acquiesce in Indonesia's occupation 
and annexation of the territory. While some adopted the pragmatic and 
realist position expounded by former Ambassador to Jakarta, Richard 
Woolcott, others were reluctant to ignore the tragic record of ABRI 
activity in East Timor but did so for the greater good of maintaining 
harmonious relations with Australia's major northern neighbour.

In keeping with a new emphasis upon human rights, the Labor Party 
platform for the federal elections in October 1998, repudiating the 
Hawke-Evans-Keating legacy, incorporated once again a statement in 
support of 'self-determination' for East Timor. The espousal of this 
policy was more than electoral expediency, since it marked a revisiting 
of an issue of great sensitivity that had divided the party and dogged 
successive leaderships. Though the Labor Party did not win office, it was 
instrumental in a decision by the Senate at the end of November to 
convene a wide-ranging inquiry into all aspects of the Timor issue.

The approach taken by the Coalition government, both before and after the 
election, also demonstrated a preparedness to take a new approach. In 
June Ambassador McCarthy undertook a visit to Dili, and in the following 
month he met Xanana Gusmao in Cipinang gaol. Here the government had been 
anticipated by the private sector. BHP, the largest Australian 
participant in the exploitation of Timor Gap oil and gas had already made 
contact with Gusmao, their representative in Jakarta being relocated when 
this was censured by the Indonesian authorities. In August, Downer 
himself appealed publicly for Indonesia to release Gusmao so that he 
could play a direct role in addressing the Timor problem. For their part, 
Indonesia announced that all combat troops had been 'withdrawn' from the 
territory, though leaked military documents later demonstrated that troop 
levels had not been reduced.

Following the elections, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer took the lead 
in re-evaluating Australia's approach to Timor. Downer's activism invites 
comparison with that of Gareth Evans in the region. Where Evans was 
determined that Australia would make a difference in Cambodia, Downer has 
grasped the importance of the Timor issue. This is a strategy with many 
merits, and also accords with Australia's other interests, as well as 
constituting something of a break with the policies of the Fraser 
administration. And yet it is also a strong practical repudiation of the 
Evans record given that the Hawke-Keating governments negotiated the two 
major instruments through which Australia identified its national 
interests closely with the Soeharto regime-the Timor Gap Treaty and the 
1995 ' Agreement on Maintaining Security'. The contrast with Evans is all 
the more evident when it is recalled that he was a strong advocate of a 
world order based upon common security and on the United Nations and its 
regimes. Although it predated his stewardship of foreign policy, on each 
of the occasions between 1975 and 1982 when the UN General Assembly voted 
on the Timor question, Indonesia was condemned. And most analyses concede 
that in incorporating the territory forcibly and without regard to a test 
of the opinions of the population, Indonesia violated fundamental 
principles of international law as well as the obligations of nations as 
defined in the United Nations Charter. Just as Gareth Evans had realised 
that Australia in 1989-90 was faced with a historic opportunity to help 
craft a resolution to the long-running Cambodia conflict, so Downer 
appreciated that Australia could make a similar contribution to the 
resolution of a conflict of far greater significance to the security of 
the nation and of much greater moment for domestic political debate.

In late November, in the context of growing disorder and uncertainty in 
Dili, Downer stated that a resolution of the issue must involve the 
leaders of the East Timorese themselves. The Australian military attaché 
in Jakarta made the first visit to East Timor since 1984, on this 
occasion to investigate claims that villagers had been massacred at Alas. 
The appearance of armed militias led to charges-later admitted as correct 
by military commanders-that ABRI was distributing weapons to anti-
secessionist elements.

At this time Department of Foreign Affairs officers embarked on a review 
of possible outcomes in East Timor. The opinions of refugee and political 
leaders were sought on the future shape of an autonomous or independent 
East Timor, and what it would need in resources and infrastructure for a 
measure of security and viability. When it was determined that even a 
nominal connection with Indonesia would be unacceptable to most of the 
inhabitants, the decision was taken to seek to influence policy in 
Jakarta more directly. Meanwhile, in the Department of Defence, 
contingency plans were formulated for a possible relief delivery or 
international peacekeeping role for Australian personnel.

In December the National Security Committee of the Cabinet considered the 
many security, economic and political issues involved and the extent to 
which Australian interests would best be served by a new intervention. 
The Prime Minister undertook to write to President Habibie to suggest 
that a new formula be found to permit eventual Indonesian dis-engagement 
from the territory if that outcome was in accordance with popular 
sentiment. While praising Habibie's commitment to reform, Mr Howard 
suggested that a possible model for a resolution of the problem was to be 
found in the Matignon accords, which provided for a future referendum 
among the population of New Caledonia but only after the realisation of a 
lengthy program of development of local political institutions and 
confidence building. This letter was delivered to the President by 
Ambassador McCarthy on 21 December.

At the time President Habibie rejected the parallel with New Caledonia, a 
reaction which was hardly surprising given that it implicitly equated 
Indonesian conduct in East Timor with French occupation of territory on 
the other side of the globe from the metropole. It should be recalled 
that each schoolday children across Indonesia read passages from the 
national constitution which identifies colonialism as the most 
reprehensible political practice.

Not discouraged, Downer pursued this initiative, suggesting in an 
official release on 12 January 1999 that the East Timorese should be 
permitted an act of self-determination after a substantial period of 
autonomy. The timetable thus enunciated was consistent with that proposed 
by the CNRM in East Timor. Though other influences were clearly at work, 
this 'historic shift' in Australian policy helped prompt a change of mind 
in Jakarta. On 28 January Foreign Minister Ali Alatas made the first 
public reference to the possibility of complete independence for the 
territory if autonomy proved unwelcome or unworkable.

At this point events began to move very quickly. United Nations brokered 
talks involving Indonesia and Portugal produced a draft settlement plan, 
though differences on provisions for a referendum, a future constitution 
and an interim UN presence prevented the principals from signing the 
document. In an extraordinary personal intervention, Habibie, while 
rejecting a referendum, announced that whatever the result Indonesia 
wished to be free of the Timor problem by the year 2000. The Timor issue 
then became drawn into the chaotic contest for the June parliamentary 
elections. While Amien Rais was not opposed to a separate East Timor if 
that were the wish of its inhabitants, he warned of the danger of a civil 
war and urged the necessity to create mechanisms for an orderly 
transition process. Megawati Soekarnoputri, on the other hand, played the 
patriotic card, rejecting any form of separatism as inconsistent with 
broader national unity. However, Dewi Fortuna Anwar, Habibie's foreign 
affairs adviser, offered the view that an independent East Timor would be 
welcome as a member of ASEAN.

A further element in the formation of Australian policy was the 
publication of a new installment of the Sherman Report on the deaths of 
the five Australian-based journalists in Balibo. Largely as a result of 
new revelations from an East Timorese (interviewed by Jonathan Holmes for 
the ABC program, 'Foreign Correspondent') who claimed to have 
participated in the incident as an irregular with an Indonesian force, 
Sherman found that the troops who had occupied Balibo and killed the 
journalists were 'under the control of Indonesian officers'.29 There was 
some irony in this finding in that it fell to Information Minister Yunus 
Yosfiah to release the Alatas statement that Indonesia might contemplate 
independence for the territory. The then Captain Yunus was named by 
Sherman as the officer in charge of the infiltration unit which was most 
likely to have been responsible for the murder of Shackleton and his 

Foreign Minister Downer led a delegation which conducted a two-day 
Ministerial Meeting in Bali. He then traveled to Jakarta for talks with 
President Habibie, and a meeting with Xanana Gusmao. The official account 
of the meetings referred to a closeness of views between the parties on 
the way ahead for Timor. Indonesia would not simply abandon Timor without 
taking constructive steps, meanwhile Australia was given permission to 
reopen its consulate in Dili, closed in 1971. Australia and Indonesia 
would cooperate in establishing an international 'contact group' to help 
coordinate funding and assistance to the territory. In the-still 
hypothetical-eventuality of an independent East Timor emerging, Australia 
would expect that in regard to the status of the Timor Gap treaty it 
would assume the role of successor state including membership of the 
joint Timor Gap Authority. The royalties earned by Indonesia and 
Australia in 1998 were around $US1.1 million each, although this sum was 
due to grow larger as planned increases in the level of production were 
realised. Other reports indicated that Mr Downer had discussed the 
possibility of generous civil aid to a new administration in East 

Following his talks in Indonesia, Mr Downer traveled to Portugal for 
consultations with Foreign Minister Jaime Gama. Again there was a good 
deal of accord on the need to encourage institution building in the 
territory. Prior to the meeting, the Portuguese government announced that 
it was prepared to assume the responsibility for funding the 
administration of Timor during a possible transition period. A government 
spokesman indicated that in talks with the Indonesian side, the 
government budget in the territory was revealed to be in the region of 
$US100 million. While Portugal as a member of the EU would expect some 
help from Brussels, if necessary it would provide the whole budget.31  
Australia announced a commitment to contribute 'within its capacity' to 
an international program of relief. Portugal also agreed to the 
stationing of an Australian diplomat in Lisbon to maintain liaison while 
the two governments took the lead in efforts to deal with the problem.

The two sides differed, however, on the desirability of a UN intervention 
involving the dispatch of a peacekeeping force. While Portugal took the 
position that such a force was needed ahead of any longer term political 
settlement, the Australian view was that the future status of the 
territory had to be determined first, otherwise peacekeepers would be 
sent to a situation where there was no peace to keep. However, 
contingency planning was already underway in the Department of Defence 
for the commitment of Australian personnel to what was assumed would be a 
multi-national force with extensive responsibilities for keeping order, 
maintaining infrastructure, and institution building. In light of the 
experience of commitments in Cambodia and Namibia, the personnel were 
likely to be engineers and technical specialists, though the 
participation of combat troops was not excluded. The cost of such a force 
was thought to be high, given that it took around $A60 million each year 
to keep the 300 Peace Monitors in Bougainville.32  And the belief that 
the UN would soon request troops was reinforced by the reported remarks 
of a UN official, Tamrat Samuel, on a visit to Dili.33 

The need for some form of international intervention was underlined by 
the precarious state of civil order. The appearance of armed 'militias' 
in the territory, including Halilinitar led by Joao Tavares (former 
bupati of Bobonaro), Mahidin led by Cancio Lopes de Carvalho, as well as 
Besi Merah Putih, and Pana led to a sharp deterioration in the security 
of the territory.34  The use of militias, raised by the Interior Ministry 
but attached to territorial or combat military groups, has been a long-
standing practice in East Timor. Now these and other groups declared 
themselves in favour of integration, and were provided with additional 
arms so that they might terrorise the populations in their areas. Through 
February attacks on civilians emptied whole villages, and roadblocks 
staged by armed gangs led to beatings and murders. The background to 
these tragic developments was complex. It is evident that some groups who 
had cooperated with Indonesia during the 'New Order' era were seeking to 
maintain their hold over their regions, yet others were hoping to create 
personal fiefdoms or exploit the climate of disorder for gain. And some 
analysts considered that while the government in Jakarta was talking as 
though East Timor was a problem to be discarded, not all in the armed 
forces were so committed to abandoning (or abandoning in an orderly 
fashion) an adventure which had been so costly in treasure, lives and 
prestige. Indeed, prominent militia leaders were dispatched to Jakarta by 
the military as part of a pro-integrationist delegation for talks with 
President Habibie in February, thus giving them a measure of 
respectability. Australia became directly involved when the leaders of 
two militias threatened to 'sacrifice' the life of an Australian to 
emphasise their implacable opposition to independence. In response, most 
Australian aid workers and residents left Dili at the end of February.

The Australian caution on the question of participating in a peacekeeping 
force was the consequence of both general and specific factors. As the 
experience of Somalia demonstrated, without a longer term political 
objective, an intervention force may end up as simply another participant 
in a civil war, and thus prey to uncertainties regarding its mandate and 
ultimately likely to suffer an erosion of political will. Quite apart 
from this more generally applicable point, Australia's high profile in 
the events of 1998-99, especially given that for so long the country had 
been one of the few to recognise Indonesian sovereignty, had led to some 
doubts of Australia's good faith. By ensuring that an intervention, when 
it came, was broadly supported and consisted of participants from many 
nations, such uncertainty or hostility would likely be dispelled.

The focus of attention then shifted to negotiations being conducted 
between Portugal and Indonesia under UN auspices. Up until this time, 
Indonesia had resisted the proposal that the East Timorese be consulted 
directly on their future, on the grounds that this would sharpen 
divisions within the community and lead to disorder. At a press 
conference in New York, conducted on 12 March, UN Secretary-General Kofi 
Annan was able to announce that all parties had agreed that 'a method of 
direct ballot will be used to ask the people of East Timor whether they 
accept or reject' a proposal for autonomy, the details of which were soon 
to be provided by the Indonesian government.35  Though it was clear that 
there were still some obstacles in Jakarta to be overcome-bearing in mind 
that autonomy was proposed as long before as June 1998-this was 
nevertheless a significant breakthrough. The conditions necessary for the 
conduct of such a vote would require a UN presence, including a role for 
armed forces, and the Secretary-General suggested that UN personnel would 
be in place by June 1999.

Once again, the issue of Australian participation was raised, and once 
again policy regarding Timor became a major element in the domestic 
political debate. The chief difference between government and opposition 
related to the precise role that Australian personnel would play. If the 
procedures for a ballot could be agreed, then there would be a role for 
Australians to advise and assist in ensuring that the result was an 
accurate reflection of public opinion. The government's position was that 
in advance of any possible political settlement, the use of Australian 
military forces as 'peacekeepers' was likely to have disastrous 
consequences. Once the future political shape of the territory was 
defined, Australian and other forces would have definite tasks, 
including-depending upon the precise outcome-the disarming of the 
'militias' and the keeping of civil order. The opposition's view was that 
without a third force to prevent the violence and intimidation which was 
becoming commonplace in parts of the island, no ballot could hope to 
produce a fair and accurate result. It followed that the presence of such 
a force was necessary ahead of the ballot. Implicit in the government's 
position was the belief that relations with Indonesia were a much more 
weighty issue than the fate of East Timor. The government was concerned 
not just with the problem of handling an Australian contribution in such 
a way as to minimise the offence to Indonesian sensibilities; it was also 
apprehensive that a rapid severing of Timor's ties with Indonesia would 
become the signal for other regions-Aceh, Maluku or Irian Jaya-to follow 
suit. But to prepare for any contingency, the Defence Minister announced 
that a brigade of Darwin-based troops would be upgraded to a state of 28-
day readiness, thus doubling the forces available for deployment at short 

On 15 March the ABC's 'Four Corners' screened a documentary on the terror 
that had accompanied the emergence of the armed militias, especially in 
the western border regions but also in Dili. The message of this and 
other reports seemed to be that the pro-independence movement was taking 
great pains to remain unprovoked by the beatings and killings that had 
accompanied the rise of the militias, but there were clearly limits 
beyond which the population would abandon restraint. At the same time, 
media reports from Ambon particularly, indicated that in parts of 
Indonesia, society had seriously fragmented to the point where something 
akin to tribal warfare was emerging. The inference from the Timor 
evidence, however, was quite different. Whereas in so much of Indonesia 
civil society was at the point of breakdown, in East Timor it seemed 
extraordinarily strong and resilient in that it could deliver such a 
concerted and relatively successful campaign of non-violence.
In this outcome, the role of the Roman Catholic Church as a focus for 
community solidarity cannot be underestimated.37  Ironically Indonesian 
promotion of panca sila-which requires all Indonesian citizens to profess 
a recognised faith-as much as the brutality of the military 
administration, have driven the Timorese to identify with the church. 
Some figures suggest that as many as 85 per cent of the population regard 
themselves as members of the church. This suggests that the outcome in 
East Timor may yet be more hopeful than in some other parts of the 

If East Timorese society has established a remarkable coherence, East 
Timorese elites have demonstrated a surprising if still limited capacity 
to work together even despite the divisive events of the past. Even 
before the collapse of the 'New Order', the UN initiative of 1993-94 had 
brought together a range of political forces, including individuals 
affiliated with UDT and other groups who had cooperated, at one time or 
another, with the Indonesian occupation, along with elements of Fretilin. 
After the fall of the Soeharto regime, a series of meetings with wide 
representation convened in London, Melbourne and elsewhere sought to 
produce a blueprint for a new East Timor. However, talks in Jakarta 
between Xanana Gusmao and pro-integrationists were unsuccessful after 
details were publicised of the help the latter were continuing to receive 
from the Indonesian administration. If such strengths as East Timorese 
civil society and elites possess are to be brought into play, therefore, 
armed conflict must be minimised. With some elements of the Indonesian 
armed forces reportedly unconvinced of the central government's case for 
autonomy, intervention from a third force may yet be needed.38 

A new departure in policy

While the case for Australian participation in intervention in East Timor 
is strong, even compelling, experience suggests that it may be less than 
fully successful, irrespective of the cost expended. The comparison with 
PNG is instructive. Although Australian colonialism was far from ideal as 
a preparation for independence, Australia's record was better than that 
of Portugal in East Timor, and the decolonisation that was realised in 
1975 proceeded in an orderly fashion. Yet despite its resource riches and 
a generation of assistance for development, PNG is a fragile and in 
places a very disordered state. Violence is endemic in some parts. A 
subvention from the Australian government, of around $A300 million 
annually is still required. And to complete the picture, it should be 
recalled that in 1999 one of Australia's continuing commitments is to 
meet the additional cost (of about $A60 million annually) of maintaining 
a peace monitoring force in Bougainville. Timor is certainly smaller but 
also poorer; the divisions among its population are both greater and 
less-many share the same language and religion, though 24 years of 
Indonesian occupation have led to some deep political divisions. In 1998-
99, Australian aid to East Timor was budgeted at $A6 million, making 
Australia the largest donor of bilateral aid. To make an impression on 
the political, social and economic problems confronting the territory, at 
least ten times this amount will need to be found for an extended period, 
quite apart from the sums necessary to support the multi-lateral team 
that will be required to manage the political transition.39  The 
commitment to Timor will be a major new departure in Australia's regional 

1  Heinz Arndt, 'Timor: Vendetta against Indonesia', Quadrant 23(1979), 
December, 13-17; John Wheeldon, 'The "Finlandisation" of Australia and 
the Occupation of East Timor', Quadrant 28(1984), September, 24-25. 
2  The two most influential and extensively cited studies of the question 
are by Australians: James S. Dunn, Timor: A People Betrayed (Milton, Qld: 
Jacaranda Press, 1983); Jill Jolliffe, East Timor: Nationalism and 
Colonialism (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1978). See also 
Bill Nicol, Timor. The Stillborn Nation (Melbourne: Visa, 1978); Michele 
Turner, Telling East Timor: Personal Testimonies 1942-1992  (Kensington: 
UNSW Press, 1992).
3  Laurie Brereton, 'Australia and East Timor', speech to the Queensland 
Branch of the AIIA, 4 February 1999, 6.
4  'Brereton's bombshell', The Australian 6-7 March 1999, 25, 30.
5  'Late mail: 24-year-old letter reveals Whitlam's Timor plea', The 
Australian 5 March 1999, 1, 4; 'The Whitlam Documents Text', Sydney 
Morning Herald 8 March 1999.
6  In general, Greg Sheridan has interpreted this material as evidence 
exonerating Whitlam: 'Forget the ideology and prejudices-Whitlam is in 
the clear', The Australian 5 March 1999, 17; Hamish McDonald, 'The 
Whitlam Documents: Political failure on East Timor', Sydney Morning 
Herald 6 March 1999 and Bruce Juddery, 'The Whitlam letter, Labor and 
Timor', Canberra Times, 9 March 1999, 9 have argued the contrary case.
7  Nancy Viviani, 'The Whitlam Government's Policy Towards Asia', in 
David Lee and C. Waters eds, Evatt to Evans. The Labor Tradition in 
Australian Foreign Policy (St Leonards: Allen and Unwin, 1997), 99-109.
8  David Lee, 'The Curtin and Chifley Governments. Liberal 
Internationalism and World Organisation', in David Lee and C. Waters eds, 
Evatt to Evans. The Labor Tradition in Australian Foreign Policy, 48-61.
9  Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, HofR, 26 August 1975, 493.
10  E. G. Whitlam, Australian Foreign Policy 1963, Fourteenth Roy Milne 
Memorial Lecture (Armidale: AIIA, 1963), 13.
11  Brian Toohey and Marian Wilkinson, The Book of Leaks (Sydney: Angus 
and Robertson, 1987), 146-54.
12  Although the surviving documentation now available does not, 
apparently, support their recollections, two of the former intelligence 
officers interviewed by Tom Sherman in 1998 stated that intelligence 
sources had reported the arrival of the journalists in Balibo, their 
subsequent capture, and within 'a day and a half' the fact that they were 
'executed': Tom Sherman, Second Report on the Deaths of Australian-Based 
Journalists in East Timor in 1995 (Canberra: Department of Foreign 
Affairs and Trade, January 1999), 95-7.
13  Graham Freudenberg, 'Aspects of Foreign Policy', in Hugh Emy, O. 
Hughes and R. Mathews (eds), Whitlam Re-Visited. Policy Development, 
Policies and Outcomes (Sydney: Pluto Press, 1993), 201.
14  Cable of Ambassador Woolcott, 17 August 1975, in J. R. Walsh and G. 
J. Munster (eds), Documents on Australian Defence and Foreign Policy 
1968-1975 (Hong Kong: Walsh and Munster, 1980), 200. On Indonesian policy 
see also 197, 217.
15  'Willesee: Whitlam reigned on East Timor', The Australian 10 March 
1999, 15. For the minister's original statement, see: Commonwealth 
Parliamentary Debates, HofR, 30 October 1975, 1609-10.
16  Hamish McDonald, Suharto's Indonesia (London: Fontana/Collins, 1980), 
189-211. Chapter 9 of this book, 'War and Diplomacy: the Timor Case', is 
required reading on this topic. See also Michael Richardson, 'East Timor: 
the War Australia Might Have Prevented', The National Times 19-24 July 
1976, 9-15; Decolonization in East Timor (Jakarta: Dept of Foreign 
Affairs, Republic of Indonesia, 1977), 17. 
17  Denis Freney, A Map of Days. Life on the Left (Port Melbourne: 
Heinemann Australia, 1991), 357-73.
18  John G. Taylor, Indonesia's Forgotten War: the Hidden History of East 
Timor (London: Zed Books, 1991); Carmel Budiardjo and Liem Soei Liong, 
The War Against East Timor (London: Zed Books, 1984).
19  Jose Ramos-Horta, Funu. The Unfinished Saga of East Timor (Trenton, 
NJ: Red Sea Press, 1987), 83.
20  Anthony Bergin, 'The Australian-Indonesian Timor Gap Maritime 
Boundary Agreement', International Journal of Estuarine and Coastal Law 
5(1990), 4, 383-93.
21  International Court of Justice, 'Case concerning East Timor': 
http://www.dfat.gov.au/intorgs/timor/icjdir.html, accessed 22/2/99.
22  Geoffrey C. Gunn, A Critical View of Western Journalism and 
Scholarship on East Timor (Manila: Journal of Contemporary Asia 
Publishers, 1994), chapter 7; Andrew McMillan, Death in Dili (Sydney: 
Sceptre, 1992).
23  'Hawke Blundered on Timor, says Whitlam', Sydney Morning Herald 10 
December 1991, 1, 11.
24  Constancio Pinto and Matthew Jardine, East Timor's Unfinished 
Struggle. Inside the Timorese Resistance (Boston: South End Press, 1997), 
chapter 7.
25  Mark Aarons and Robert Domm, East Timor. A Western Made Tragedy 
(Sydney: Left Book Club, 1992).
26  John Pilger, 'A Land of Crosses', in Jim Aubrey (ed.), Free East 
Timor. Australia's Culpability in East Timor's Genocide (Sydney: Random 
House Australia, 1998), 153-76.
27  On the role of the UN see: Geoffrey C. Gunn, East Timor and the 
United Nations. The Case for Intervention (Lawrenceville, NJ: The Red Sea 
Press, 1997)
28  Benedict Anderson, The Spectre of Comparisons (London: Verso, 1998), 
29  Tom Sherman, Second Report on the Deaths of Australian-Based 
Journalists in East Timor in 1995, 149.
30  Australian Financial Review, 'Australia expected to fund East Timor', 
1 March 1999.
31  Sydney Morning Herald, 'Old colonist Portugal throws financial 
lifeline to E Timor', 25 February 1999.
32  The Age, 'Australian troops for Timor', 1 March 1999.
33  'Special UN troops to Timor in March, Dili very tense', TAPOL 1/3/99: 
http://www.easttimor.com/html/timor_news1.htm, accessed 3/1/99.
34  Far Eastern Economic Review 18 February, 24-5; Gerry van Klinken, 
'How ABRI's militias in Timor are structured': 
http://www.easttimor.com/html/notices2.htm, accessed 28/2/99; Sydney 
Morning Herald, 'Envoy must die to stop civil war', 1 March 1999, 1.
35  United Nations, Press Release SG/SM/6922, 12 March 1999.
36  'Timor: army on high alert', The Australian 12 March 1999, 1.
37  Robert Archer, 'The Catholic Church in East Timor', in Peter Carey 
and G. Carter Bentley (eds), East Timor at the Crossroads: the Forging of 
a Nation (London: Cassell, 1995), 120-33.
38  Paul Daley, 'Soldiers flooding East Timor: report', The Age 18 March 
1999. For the case against Australian intervention ahead of a political 
settlement, see Paul Kelly, 'East Timor: it's not our fight to join', The 
Australian 17 March 1999, 13.
39  On the background to the territory's economic prospects, see: M Hadi 
Soesastro, 'East Timor: Questions of Economic Viability', in Hal Hill 
(ed.), Unity and Diversity. Regional Economic Development in Indonesia 
since 1970 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991), 207-29.

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