Senate debates

Monday, 11 September 2023

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Overthrow of Chilean Government: 50th Anniversary

3:55 pm

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Wong) to a question without notice I asked today relating to the overthrow of the Chilean government.

Fifty years ago, Australia was involved in a coup—a coup that caused immeasurable suffering and nearly two decades of repression for the Chilean community. Under Pinochet's military dictatorship, no fewer than 3,216 people were murdered, 36,000 civilians were imprisoned and tortured, and 200,000 people were exiled. This was the result of a conspiracy cooked up by leaders in Washington, DC and in Canberra to undermine the democratically elected government because that Chilean government wouldn't fall in line with US hegemony.

Twenty thousand Chileans moved to Australia on the back of the brutality of the Pinochet regime. These were people who were directly persecuted by the regime and who now call Australia home. Their stories are harrowing. Maria Eugenia Jimenez's entire family was persecuted: her brother tortured, her parents imprisoned, and she herself beaten for being a student before being forced to flee Chile. Isabel Espinosa Galleguillos was detained on the day of the coup in the factory where she worked. She was pregnant at the time and was severely beaten, causing the loss of her baby. These are but a handful of the stories of the nearly 300 Chilean Australians who have signed an open letter calling on our government to acknowledge Australia's role in such an utter human disaster.

Most people in this country know nothing of ASIS and ASIO's secret operations in Chile. Australia supported the CIA, who were working against the democratically elected Allende government. Australia's involvement remains shrouded in secrecy due to the undemocratic oversight of intelligence in this country. Even today, Australia and its government value secrecy over democratic transparency. Chilean Australians have been seeking documents on Australia's role in the coup and have been blocked at every single turn. Requests for the release of the documents are responded to with a simple statement that their release could cause damage to the reputation of the Commonwealth or, indeed, could cause damage to international relations. But in reality it is far more damaging to the reputation of Australia on the world stage that its government remains unable to recognise or to apologise for its role in the coup. Even the US has declassified most of the documents related to the coup.

So many questions remain 50 years later. What could possibly have justified Australia's role in overthrowing a democratically elected government on the other side of the planet? What could have justified installing a murderous dictator whose legacy is loss, suffering and pain? Why was there an ASIS station set up in Santiago? Why did ASIO personnel masquerade as immigration officers in the embassy? Why was ASIO recording and spying on Chilean refugees in Australia over one year after the coup? Why is Adriana Rivas, a secretary to the Chilean dictatorship secret police, who is wanted on charges of kidnapping and detained in Australia, yet to be extradited by the Attorney-General to Chile?

Reports abound of other members of the secret police residing in Australia, only doors down from Chileans who have taken refuge in our country—the same country that assisted in the coup. What, indeed, of the Mino-Logan brothers, who had been accepted for humanitarian passage to Australia and then—surprise, surprise—were discovered and taken into custody by the secret police? The Australian Greens express our solidarity with the people of Chile today and will continue to push our government to own its role in the overthrow of democracy.

Question agreed to.