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Speech on the 50th Anniversary of the Chilean Coup

On Monday 11 September 2023, I made a speech in Federal Parliament on the 50th Anniversary of the Chilean Coup. You can watch the full speech here or read the transcript below.



Today marks the 50th anniversary of the bloody US-backed military coup that overthrew the democratically elected Chilean government on 11 September1973. After President Salvador Allende was elected in 1970, the CIA worked to destabilise his government and to create the conditions for a military coup. The death toll of the coup and subsequent military dictatorship under the rule of General Augusto Pinochet is still not known. The best estimate we have is that around 40,000 Chileans were tortured or killed under the regime's ruthless purge of political opponents.

This motion has some critical omissions. First and foremost, it names the mysterious interference of foreign powers, but doesn't name which nations. The role of the US is widely known, but many may not realise that Australia also played a role in destabilising the Allende government, paving the way for the military coup. Thanks to documents declassified in 2021, we know that the Australian Security and Intelligence Service, ASIS, operated a base in Santiago from 1971 to 1973 and supported the CIA in their operations there. Only around 18 months later, the then newly elected Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, ordered the base to be shut down. Unfortunately, we know little else about what ASIS was actually up to during that time. Further attempts to declassify records in 2021 were blocked by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, supposedly in the national interest—more secretive even than the US and UK on this event.

This information is now five decades old. The Australian public deserves to know what ASIS was doing there aiding and abetting a military coup that resulted in the torture and death of tens of thousands of people. The Australian public deserves to know because this government continues a long-term collusion and relationship with the United States, despite the United States's poor record of interference in foreign affairs.

The Chilean coup is not the only time the US has actively undermined democratically elected governments. In 1953 the fledgling Iranian democracy was overthrown by a CIA backed coup, after efforts to nationalise the Iranian oil industry out of the hands of the British, who had controlled it for decades. Iran has never since had a democratic government. In 1954, just a year later, the US explicitly authorised a coup against the democratically elected government of Guatemala at the behest of the American owned corporation the United Fruit Company.

I could continue, but I'd be here all night. We need only to think back to recent history—the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya—to know that, while the Cold War may be over, the US appetite for meddling in other nation's affairs and destroying their inhabitants' lives in the process has not subsided. And Australia has often been right behind them, never questioning. The result of all this meddling has not been the championing of democracy; it has been the destabilisation of regions felt across the globe today. In fact, this motion moved by the member for Bean mentions neither the US's involvement nor Australia's involvement in the coup, and that fact is worrying.

Australia needs a foreign policy independent of the US, and here's why. Fifty years ago today, in 1973, Australia joined with the CIA to help topple a democratically elected government. Australia has followed the US into countless wars that have resulted in the deaths of millions and the destabilisation of entire regions. This same Labor Party that refuses to acknowledge this is the Labor Party that has happily signed us onto the AUKUS agreement with the US, spending hundreds of billions of taxpayers' dollars on nuclear attack submarines, ostensibly to prop up US hegemony in the Pacific, submarines that, even before they've been built, have inflamed tensions in the region and made us less safe. Whispers of dissent at the recent ALP National Conference were summarily crushed, and even former Prime Minister and Labor royalty Paul Keating's calls against AUKUS have been ignored.

The major parties seem absolutely incapable of questioning the orthodoxy of US hegemony. Do they really still want us to be effectively America's lapdog 50 years after the bloody Chilean coup?

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