Greece’s finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has been touched by the support Greek Australians have shown Greece and says he hopes to visit the country soon.
Appearing via audio link, Mr Varoufakis joined hundreds of people at a Let Greece Breathe campaign event in Melbourne this week to show solidarity to Greece as it enters more tense talks with its creditors.
“Your support in events like tonight’s is of the upmost importance to us, psychologically, tangibly, in practical terms, in every which way,” he said.
“I wish to thank you from Athens and send you my solidarity for the solidarity that you are extending to us.”
Mr Varoufakis painted a bleak picture of the state of affairs in Greece, and said the previous government’s line had worn thin.
“There were no real reforms, all we had was reductions, a sequence of reductions in pensions, in salaries, in benefits, and increase in taxes, this was a neverending cycle of doom,” he says.
“In the end, if you have a sick cow and you keep beating it, you’re not going to produce more milk.”
He says Greece has struggled to convince its creditors to re-negotiate the terms of the bailout but says Greece’s line is as firm as ever.
“We’re not going to succumb,” he says.
“We are going to continue to speak truth, and we are going to continue to negotiate, seeking an agreement, we’re going to compromise.”
The event was hosted by the Australia-Greece Solidarity Campaign and saw a number of high-profile union figures and politicians attend.
President of the Australian Councils of Trade Unions Ged Kearney joined Greens senator Adam Bandt in throwing their support behind Greece’s new government, saying SYRIZA’s election “inspires” a progressive movement in Australia.
Greece’s debt currently sits at more than 170 per cent of its GDP, making its attempts to get out of bankruptcy very difficult.
Political economist and head of the Australia-Greece Solidarity Campaign, Adam Rorris, reported that dozens of Australian economists “agree that the Greek debt can not be repaid and part of it must be erased”.
A crowd favourite was Greek Australian film maker Ana Kokkinos, who spoke of the motivations of Greece’s creditors and the problems created by a corrupt government.
She finished on a positive note by saying the crisis has fuelled more mindful and aware storytellers.
“I feel a great sense of hope that this next generation of storytellers will shine a light on these human realities and keep the ideas of freedom and democratic practice alive,” she says.
Ms Kokkinos’ full speech can be found on page 27.