Three official war historians have called for the Foreign Minister to ensure an uncensored history of Australia's involvement in East Timor is published, following reports bureaucrats were delaying its release.
The Australian War Memorial's official historian Craig Stockings had been contracted to write the history of Australia's peace-keeping involvement in East Timor, but its publication has stalled, with reports Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials wanted major changes to the book to protect the relationship with Indonesia.
Official historians Robert O'Neill AO, Peter Edwards AM and David Horner AM have penned a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne calling for her intervention.
"We ... urge you to instruct your departmental officers to withdraw any objections, based on current diplomatic sensitivity, to publication of first volume of the current official history," they wrote.
The historians said Australia has a proud history of commissioning unvarnished war histories, that had enhanced Australia's international reputation.
"Australia stands to lose much more from the perception that its official histories may be censored by departmental officials for reasons of assumed diplomatic sensitivity than from maintaining the century-old tradition of well researched, comprehensive and balanced histories, free of official or political censorship."
If reports that the Department didn't want nine chapters of the book published were true, Dr Edwards said it was an "extraordinarily large amount" to take objection to and "quite inappropriate".
It has been reported the department had taken issue with chapters describing the lead up the conflict, concerned about the effect the re-telling would have on Australia's relationship with Indonesia.
While some sensitive information has been excluded from histories in the past, like intelligence-gathering methods, Dr Edward said the history needed to be a proper account.
"It's vital, because once you go down the path of trying to anticipate any adverse reactions and head them off you lose the reputation for writing clear and uncensored histories," he said.
"It's only when you write the bad along with the good that the good carries any conviction."
A spokesman for the foreign minister said "there is an ongoing discussion between government agencies on the Official History draft manuscript - this is normal practice".
"It would not be appropriate for the minister to intervene while the established processes for publishing such documents are yet to be completed."