Monday, 11 September 2023
Private Members' Business
Overthrow of Chilean Government: 50th Anniversary
On the 50th anniversary of the coup d'etat in Chile, we remember the many who suffered during the brutal 17-year dictatorship. The Museum of Memory and Human Rights, which Assistant Minister Tim Watts visited during his visit to Santiago recently, shines a light on the human rights violations inflicted and recognises the important progress made since Chile's return to democracy. We celebrate the important contribution made by the Whitlam government in publicly deploring the coup and rejecting the complicity of foreign powers.
Australia made an important statement in welcoming a generation of Chilean immigrants to Australia, and they've made such a rich contribution to Australian society and democracy. I'll just talk for a moment about a mate of mine Roberto from Melbourne. He's an absolutely fantastic bloke. His parents immigrated from Chile in the early seventies. I don't know the year exactly, but they migrated and have made such an incredible contribution. What I can say about the Chilean people that I know through Roberto is that they are very, very friendly people; they are incredibly friendly people. I look forward to visiting Chile one day.
Chileans are, in fact, the second-largest group of Hispanic Australians. The 2021 census revealed almost 30,000 people in Australia were born in Chile, 70 per cent of them were Australian citizens. Our largest Chilean Australian communities are in Sydney, Melbourne, where my mate Roberto lives, and Canberra. It's a little-known fact that one of the first two Chileans to arrive to Australia in 1837 was former president Ramon Freire, who was exiled for attempting to return to power in a coup. In 1899, also little known, Chile opened a consulate office in Newcastle. Australia and Chile then established diplomatic relations in 1945, and Australia open a diplomatic legation in Santiago in 1946. Another fascinating fact, as the member for Bean pointed out, is that the first Labor Prime Minister, Chris Watson, was born in Chile as the son of a Chilean citizen of German descent.
Chileans first migrated to Australia in a significant wave of around 2,000 people between 1968 and 1970. The second wave occurred in 1970 following the election of Salvador Allende, the first democratically elected Marxist president in the world. Both of these waves were overwhelmingly from the middle class and became small-business owners in Australia. The third and largest wave of migrants followed the 1973 military coup and the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, the wave of migrants from Chile that we honour today. This explains how the Australian story is bound up with Chile's own political history. Of the 500,000 people fleeing the coup, Australia welcomed over 21,000 with open arms. We also gave asylum to Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile, from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2014 to 2018, as well as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
President Bachelet later moved to East Germany, and thousands of Chileans also returned to Chile after those events. But we can be proud of the bonds that these experiences forged between our countries.
Today, Chile is one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America, with an Indo-Pacific focus and emerging bilateral links in green energy and connectivity. Our engagement spans mining, resources, education and research and people-to-people links. We have a lot of Australians visiting Chile, and a lot of Chileans coming here to visit.
As it marks the anniversary, Chile is looking to the world to reaffirm our shared commitment to democracy and human rights, calling for a commitment to safeguard democracy and the rule of law and to recommit to multilateral processes.
By speaking about migration and people-to-people relationships, I by no means want to escape the fact that, over time, many wrong things were done, and we look to the future. (Time expired)