House debates

Monday, 11 September 2023

Private Members' Business

Overthrow of Chilean Government: 50th Anniversary

7:02 pm

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to also mark the 50th anniversary of the 1973 coup in the Republic of Chile; 11 September 1973 marked a day of unimaginable tragedy for Chile. It was a turning point for the country and part of a tragic continuation of foreign interference at the expense of people's freedoms and liberties. Chile's democratically elected president Salvador Allende signified Chile's freedom and sovereignty and the democratic and human rights of not only the people of Chile but to Latin America, the Global South and, indeed, the world.

This commemoration is evidence of how solidarity, struggle and truth in the face of injustice is what lives on, values that stand testament to what continues to inspire, because who can forget the images of the democratically elected Salvador Allende standing valiantly in the face of a violent military coup?

I acknowledge the important contribution made by the then Whitlam government in not only publicly deploring the coup but rejecting the complicity of foreign powers. Today, as we honour the many who have suffered during the brutal Pinochet dictatorship, so too must we recognise that the violent coup and subsequent military dictatorship was supported and enabled by the interference of foreign powers.

As it marks the anniversary, Chile is looking to the world to reaffirm our shared commitment to democracy and human rights, and I indeed welcome the Ambassador of the Republic of Chile, who was in the House today during question time.

On an IPU delegation to Chile in 2003, I had the opportunity to meet with Salvador Allende's daughter Isabel Allende, who was then president of the Chamber of Deputies of Chile, and was struck by how universal and ubiquitous the memory of those events are in Chile's national psyche.

Australia made an important statement in welcoming a generation of Chilean immigrants to Australia and who continue to make a rich contribution to Australian society. I have a very strong relationship with our local Chilean diaspora community.

The impressive diversity of the Chilean economy today reflects the energy, the resilience and the vibrancy of its people. Australians also have a deep appreciation of Pablo Neruda's work, the poet diplomat, who symbolised the beauty and the voice of the Chilean people's struggles.

The trade union movement in Victoria has a long and proud history of international solidarity. In continuing this solidarity, and this tradition, the Victorian branch of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union is running a series of cultural and political activities that recognise the sacrifices of movements around the world. In reaffirming our movement's support and solidarity, they are tonight, in Melbourne at Unity Hall in Trades Hall, commemorating 50 years of solidarity and struggle with the Chilean people. They join in solidarity and the lifelong commitment to improving the lives of working people, not only in our home state of Victoria but across the country and beyond our shores. Wherever there is a struggle to improve working conditions, wherever there is a fight against political oppression, wherever there is a place beyond Australia's shores in which injustice reigns, we must stand in solidarity.

I want to reflect on the words of a long-time advocate of the international peace movement, former Victorian state secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the late Frank Cherry. His words provide us with important lessons, quite often lost in today's social and political culture. Frank Cherry spoke of the development of an informed and educated workforce, a workforce that understood that international solidarity wasn't just an object of impassioned faith but of direct action. He said:

The union should not be restricted simply to wages and conditions, but a broader picture of the community. All shop stewards and officials of the union must be prepared and educated to deal with the broad issues facing all working people.

Our solidarity and support across Australia serves to do just that. Historical parallels require movements to remember and recommit to the values that shape history, both local and international. These linkages are not abstract, and I want to finish with Salvador Allende's final words, from his farewell speech on this very same and fateful day 50 years ago, which speak truth to this solidarity:

Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Keep in mind that, much sooner than later, the great avenues will again be opened through which will pass free men to construct a better society. Long live Chile! Long live the people! Long live the workers!


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