Commonwealth Government to Sir Thomas Inskip, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 39 6 April 1939,

The following telegram has been despatched to His Majesty’s Ambassador at Lisbon [1]: (begins) Commonwealth Government as you are aware from representations made in connection with Oil Search are desirous for strategical and political reasons to counteract penetration in Portuguese Timor by other foreign interests. It is felt that objective will be furthered by establishment of air service between Australia and Timor which will from the point of view of Portugal assist greatly in development of this territory. With these considerations in mind Commonwealth Government would appreciate if you would communicate the sense of the following to the Portuguese Government.

Commonwealth Government with the object of increasing friendly contacts improving communications and facilitating mutual development desires to submit a proposal to the Portuguese Government for the establishment of a weekly land- plane air service from Darwin to Dilli subject to a favourable reception by the Portuguese Government of the proposal and to a subsequent settlement of satisfactory arrangements with an Australian air service. If the view of the Portuguese Government is favourable it is assumed that the Portuguese Government will accord landing rights and use of facilities for service in Portuguese Timor and that Portuguese authorities will accept responsibility for provision suitable aerodrome radio and other essential facilities at Dilli. It is desired to send a responsible officer of the Australian Civil Aviation Department to Timor at an early date to consult with Portuguese authorities.

It would be appreciated if the Portuguese Government could indicate at the earliest possible date whether it approves of the proposal and whether the visit to Timor is acceptable. If so, it is suggested authority be given to the Commonwealth Government to communicate direct with the Governor at Dilli in regard to questions such as size and state of aerodrome with view to visit by air. (ends) As this question is at present in the exploratory stage only His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia request that no publicity be given to it. [2]


1 Sir Walford Selby.

2 This message was dispatched at the request of Captain E. C. Johnston, Acting Director-General of Civil Aviation, whose Department had been considering the question of an air service to Timor since its discussion by Cabinet on to March 1939. See Johnston’s letter to Lt Col W.R. Hodgson, Secretary of Department of External Affairs, 29 March 1939, on file AA: A981, Aviation 50.


[AA: A1608, L52/1/1]