Universidad de Chile’s Institute of International Studies, Santiago

  • Speech, E&OE

Thank you to the Institute and UChile for having me here today.

If I were giving a speech in Australia, we would normally start an address like this with what we call an ‘Acknowledgement of Country' – this is a recognition of the traditional Indigenous owners of the land we meet on in Australia.

If I was speaking to you in my own electorate in Melbourne's west, I would begin by saying ‘I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet – the Woi Wurrung nation and give my respects to their elders past and present.'

So today as a visitor to Chile, I want to express my respects and acknowledge any Indigenous Chileans with us today.

Acknowledge Director Lopez, who unfortunately cannot be here today, Deputy Director Dockendorff, the Institute's teachers and students of course; and it's a pleasure also to be joined by Ambassador Powell whom I had the pleasure to meet yesterday and its great to be able to see you so soon.

And I thank you for your time and attendance today.

During my flight here, I had some time to reflect on the great vastness of the Pacific Ocean that connects our two nations.

It was a wonderful reminder that when it comes to genuine friendship, geography is no obstacle.

And Australia and Chile are genuine friends.

We work together on a range of issues; we invest in both directions; and we travel to each other's countries to work, study and holiday.

Australia is also home to a thriving Chilean diaspora – including in my own hometown of Melbourne.  It is one of the 300 ancestries we are proud to be home to.

In Australia, we see ourselves as a multicultural, modern nation that shares common ground with the people of the world, and with links to almost every country on earth.

In my own electorate in Melbourne, two thirds of my constituents were either born overseas or have a parent born overseas. This is the normal reality of Australia as a migrant country. And this connects with countries all around the world.

In the case of Chile though, that link is quite unique.

You might know that a few months ago, Australians elected a new Labor government – led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

However, you may not know that more than a century ago, in 1904, Australia elected the world's first national level government led by a Labor party – my party – of the trade union movement.

That government was led by John Christian Watson – or Chris Watson, as he was known.

Chris Watson has the curious distinction of being the only Australian Prime Minister in our history who wasn't born in Australia, or the British empire.

Watson's father, Johan Christian Tanck, was Chilean-German.

And Watson was born here in Chile – in Valparaíso.

Watson became Prime Minister at the age of 37 – not much older than President Boric was when he took office – and to this day, Chris Watson remains our youngest Prime Minister.

His portrait, sporting a handsome beard that he was very proud of, hangs in my party's caucus room to this day.

And he remains a unique part of the story of Australia and Chile's long relationship.

But his story is an illustration of how the countless individual stories of Australia's history of immigration and multiculturalism connect us with  every country in the world.

Today, our nations are connected by thousands of tourists, students holiday makers and migrants, building the relationship between our countries through countless people to people connections in a new era in which the values that we share are more important than ever.   

Today, our unstable global economic circumstances have exacerbated inequality, with the economic shock of the pandemic affecting those who can least afford it, the most.

In this world, Australia and Chile's interests and priorities are more aligned than ever, and we have the opportunity to work together to face the many challenges of our time.

Australia and Chile are working together on trade issues – ensuring that any trade is free, fair and open, benefiting the citizens of both of our countries.

The rules-based international order is being challenged on multiple fronts today, not least by the destabilising effects of Russia's illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine.

Together, our two countries understand that strong multilateral institutions are essential to our security, prosperity and stability.

We've worked particularly closely together in the past in support of these institutions – including in APEC and the WTO, including as members of the Cairns Group.

In particular, Australia works closely with Chile in multilateral and regional forums like the UN and APEC to support women's human rights, in the face of some countries' efforts to undermine long established agreements on these rights.

And of course, there is the existential challenge of our generation, the change of climate change, which I will focus on today.

The Australian Government believes that climate change is the single biggest challenge to our region, and to our world.

And I know that's a view the Chilean Government shares.

In Australia, the new government has legislated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 43 per cent by 2030.

And like Chile, we have committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

We have made these commitments because we know that how we face climate change, and what we do – or what we don't do – will have existential ramifications for the future of life on our planet.

As I mentioned earlier, the Pacific Ocean connects our two countries.

It feeds us. It shapes our weather and affects our economies.

It is fundamental to our way of life.

As a country with one of the largest and most distinctive coastlines in the world, Chile knows this all too well.

Australians too, have a pretty strong affinity with water.

85 per cent of our population lives within 50 kilometres of the coast.

We have magnificent beaches, including in my electorate in Melbourne.

The third largest area of mangroves in the world.

Some of the world's largest coral and rocky reef systems – including, of course, the world-famous Great Barrier Reef.

Recognising the importance of our waters, some four million square kilometres of Australian waters – about 45 per cent – are marine protected areas.

The oceans are also our biggest carbon sink.

They are home to more than half of all life on earth, hosting rich ecosystems that contribute to climate mitigation and adaption.

And the biodiverse plant life that lives in our oceans – mangroves, marshes, algae, seagrasses – make up blue carbon ecosystems that sequester two to four times more carbon per hectare than terrestrial forests.

These ecosystems are so vital in the Pacific.

They provide protection from extreme weather events, mitigate against the impacts of rising sea levels, and provide greater food security and sustainable livelihoods.

But they are also incredibly vulnerable.

Climate change; plastic pollution; coastal development; destructive fishing practices.

All of these put our oceans' biodiversity and health at risk.

And that, in turn, risks reducing our oceans' capacity to sequester carbon, creating a dangerous feedback loop.

To protect them, we need to invest in nature-based solutions, decarbonise ocean industries, end plastic pollution, and harness ocean-based renewable energy.

That work is already well underway.

Australia coordinates the International Partnership for Blue Carbon, a global network of over 50 partners, to accelerate implementation of blue carbon restoration activities.

Chile, as a member of the ‘Americas for the Protection of the Ocean' initiative, is working to create marine corridors from Canada to Chilean Patagonia in the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Organisation.

Together, we are working through the Ocean Panel – a unique group of seventeen world leaders advocating for strong, practical solutions to help the world transition to a sustainable ocean economy.

At the fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly in February 2022, our countries joined the global fight to end plastic pollution, and to negotiate an international treaty by 2024.

And as members of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, and the Global Ocean Alliance, Australia and Chile are advocating for a global target to protect at least 30 per cent of the global ocean by 2030.

In Australia, we've also set a national goal to protect and conserve 30 per cent of Australia's land by 2030.

In talking about our ‘30by30' targets, I'm reminded very strongly of President Boric's ‘turquoise' foreign policy agenda – combining the blue of the ocean and the green of the environment into one, recognising that it is all connected.

Australia, like Chile, recognises that the climate crisis presents an opportunity. And our countries are already collaborating in this space.

  • Australia and Chile lead the world in the mining of critical minerals like cobalt, lithium and silicon – all essential in the technologies we need for a sustainable future.
  • Australia, like Chile, is seeking to become a top global supplier of green hydrogen by 2030, with our two countries working together to significantly increase research and development resources to kickstart green hydrogen production globally.
  • And many of the green hydrogen projects that have been proposed or are under development in Chile involve Australian companies.

There is always more we can do, and I'm looking forward to seeing our relationship in sustainable mining and renewable energies grow.

The maintenance and protection of our waters and of our environment is something that First Nations people in Australia, both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders alike, as well as our Pacific partners in the Pacific Family, have long championed.

Indigenous peoples are key climate action stakeholders.

As a country committed to democratic values, freedoms and human rights, one of Australia's foreign policy priorities is to advance and protect the rights of Indigenous peoples, at home and around the world.

This starts by recognising that our own domestic human rights record in this respect is not perfect – it is far from perfect.

Australia is home to the oldest continuous civilisation in the world – the oldest continuous living culture in the world.

But British settlement, which has given us strong institutions and a longstanding tradition of liberal democracy, led directly to the dispossession and deaths of First Nations peoples.

And it has given us a long legacy of injustice that continues today.

So, one of the first commitments of our new government – in fact the first issue mentioned by our Prime Minister on election night – on taking office was to the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a historic statement, signed in May 2017 by more than 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates from across Australia.

It was the product of a multi-year process of coming together of Indigenous Australians, to form a consensus of what their ask was from the Australian people and Australian Government.

What they wanted to remedy from a historic legacy of dispossession and injustice experienced by their peoples across the country.

The Uluru Statement of the Heart calls for three key reforms, it makes three asks of the Australian people which are modest and humble:

Voice: enshrining a First Nations Voice in the Australian Constitution.

Treaty: agreement-making between governments and First Nations.

And Truth: truth-telling about our history, for a fair and truthful relationship.

The new Australian Government is working towards a referendum to establish a First Nations Voice to Parliament.

And we will establish a Makarrata Commission to work with the Voice to Parliament, once established, on a national process for Treaty and Truth-telling.

This agenda is being powerfully led by Indigenous leaders within the new Australian government.

Linda Burney, the Minister for Indigenous Australians and the first Indigenous woman to serve as a Cabinet Minister in an Australian government.

Malarndirri McCarthy, the Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians.

And Senator Pat Dodson, known to all Australians as the father of reconciliation, the Special Envoy for Reconciliation and the Implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, who recently joined Australia's Foreign Minister, Senator Penny Wong as our representative at the recent session of the United Nations General Assembly, a historic moment for our country. 

I know that like us, Chile's Government also recognises the importance of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

While our two nations will walk our own paths on constitutional recognition and reconciliation, I think that there is a lot that we can learn from each other's journeys.

And we look forward to working with Chile on universal human rights standards, including in multilateral forms such as the United Nations.


Young people today have inherited a complex and challenging world – much more so than when I left university

One that Chris Watson, back in 1904, couldn't possibly have imagined.

It would have taken Watson's family several months to sail from Chile to New Zealand, and onto Australia

Today, you can jump on a plane and get from Santiago to Sydney in about fifteen hours.

That contrast reminds us that while the world has become more complex, it has also given us more opportunities than ever to cooperate and collaborate.

And cooperation and collaboration is the only way we can face the challenges of our world today.

So, thank you again for your time.

I hope I've given you a sense of the great friendship that our two nations already share – as well as a sense of what we can achieve in the future working together.

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