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Italy - The Italian Connection -

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Italy - The Italian Connection

Broadcast: 30/05/2006

Reporter: Josephine Cafagna

Transcript

CAFAGNA: The grand plan to give Italian citizens around the world their own representation in the
Italian Parliament, has already led to the downfall of the Berlusconi Government. Now two
Australians who have won the right to sit in that Parliament, are playing a crucial role in trying
to form stable government out of what is the tangle of Italian politics.

They're the toast of the Italian community in Australia - seventy four year old newspaper editor
Nino Randazzo and his long time friend, forty-eight year old welfare worker, Marco Fedi. The live
in Melbourne, yet now they'll be spending a lot of time in Rome.

Nino and Marco are leaving family behind to be part of an Italian political experiment.

CHECK-IN MAN AT AIRPORT: I heard about you guys on the radio a couple of days ago and I was
thinking to myself, they live here and they've been elected to Parliament in Italy.

CAFAGNA: When most septuagenarians are settling back to enjoy the grandchildren, Nino Randazzo is
taking on a new career.

SENATOR NINO RANDAZZO: [L'Unione coalition] Well I've got three daughters... a wife and three
daughters. They think I'm mad, totally mad. Mad to the extent of being admitted to a lunatic asylum
but they are happy, terribly happy and proud at the same time. It's as simple as that.

CAFAGNA: For the first time, Italy has given its citizens living abroad their own representation in
the Italian Parliament, dividing the world into four vast electorates. Nino and Marco will
represent Italians in Asia, Australia, Africa and even the sixteen Italians in Antarctica.

MARCO FEDI: We've got a lot to learn and I guess Nino too in the next few days before we face this
sort of scrutiny from the Italian medic.

CAFAGNA: They are the odd couple of Italian politics. Marco the studious and worried type... Nino,
well less so.

Are you nervous?

SENATOR NINO RANDAZZO: No absolutely not. Quite happy, relaxed. I'm taking it in my stride.

CAFAGNA: They're flying into Italian political upheaval. Marco will be in the lower house but in
the senate, where Nino takes his place, the centre left L'Unione Government of Romano Prodi holds a
mere two seat majority. It can't afford to put Nino offside.

You have a lot of power don't you?

SENATOR NINO RANDAZZO: Well let's put it this way.... yes, yes in a way but holding the balance of
power it's not an easy task to achieve.

CAFAGNA: Rome, the eternal city of seven hills, home of Catholicism, antiquity, style and more than
its fair share of chaos. First stop the Australian Embassy in Rome.

MARCO FEDI: They already call us the odd couple.

PETER WOOLCOTT (Australian Ambassador): The odd couple!

MARCO FEDI: So if we live together it'll be really strange.

CAFAGNA: Two Aussies in the Italian Parliament will be a great boost to Australia's lobbying
capacity.

PETER WOOLCOTT (Australian Ambassador): It's fantastic for Italians living in Australia, because
they've got a voice.

CAFAGNA: In part, Marco and Nino have this man to thank for introducing the global electorate
concept, the controversial former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. His miscalculation that
Italians abroad would vote for him has seen him tossed from office. In a country where governments
change almost annually, he's been Italy's longest serving post war leader.

Barely 24 hours after their arrival, Nino and Marco are invited to meet the new Prime Minister,
Romano Prodi. He's keen to hold their vote. From suburban Melbourne to the centre of power in Rome,
it's an anxious few minutes wait. Eventually their leader emerges. Finally here and from so far
away he says.

Italians refer to their new more mundane leader as "Mortadella" the bland compressed meat used to
fill focaccias. He only has a few minutes to spare, but tell me everything, he says to his guests.

PRIME MINISTER ROMANO PRODI: I was not surprised by the positive results abroad because you didn't
have the same media bombardment that we faced. Yu can't imagine what we were confronted with.

CAFAGNA: They discuss the logistical problems of commuting from their overseas electorates to the
Parliament in Rome.

ROMANO PRODI: You can't just identify with Italians, you have to be a bridge. You are the Italians
in Italy and you are the Italians in Australia. You can't perform just the one task.

CAFAGNA: They only get a few minutes but that's more than most. The Australians are given priority
treatment by party officials and soon the local media also take an interest, keen to know if their
vote in Parliament is negotiable.

More meetings with high ranking officials, this one with Enrico Letta, the Prime Minister's right
hand man.

ENRICO LETTA: [Cabinet member] We live in a globalised world. This is the point. Maybe we are the
first country experimenting this new idea of globalisation of democracy but we live in a globalised
world so.

CAFAGNA: Letta's prime responsibility will be to revive Italy's stagnant economy. Chinese imports
are a big threat to Italy's fashion and textile industry. Laura Biagiotti is one of the country's
top designers. She says it's a political mistake to allow overseas Italians into parliament.

LAURA BIAGIOTTI: I don't agree with this idea because in my opinion, basically you have to vote in
the country where you pay your taxes so these people that came out because they have a sentimental
reason to be Italian, I don't strongly believe that they can be so interesting for our situation.

MARCO FEDI: They tend to focus on the fact that we gave Prodi a majority in the Senate and they
forget to ask us questions about who we are, what we represent and why we're here and that's the
kind of discussion that I would like to start, both with the media and with public opinion in Italy
because there are many misconceptions about why we are here.

LAURA BIAGIOTTI: I think yes, it will be a short experiment because I don't think that people who
spend their life in another country for maybe two or three generations since they know so well how
things are going there.

CAFAGNA: Most Italians seem to have embraced the idea of foreigners playing a political role in
their country. Others question its value.

ITALIAN LADY: It's a very strange thing, because... I have a daughter who lives in Brussels, and she
voted - but someone who lives in Australia - what do they know of problems in Italy?

ITALIAN MAN: They have a more enlightened view than we Italians, because they're looking from the
outside and their conclusions are based on information received over there.

CAFAGNA: Now they're in the Italian parliament is it good?

ITALIAN MAN: Naturally it's good.

CAFAGNA: Why?

ITALIAN MAN: Because they're Italians abroad, and should be able to vote in Italy.

CAFAGNA: Even for their own representatives?

ITALIAN MAN: Especially if they vote for the L'Olive Party - even better.

CAFAGNA: The political temperature in the capital is intense as doubts continue about Prodi's
capacity to form government. The expatriate MP's supporting Prodi meet to discuss a common
strategy. They want greater financial and cultural assistance for the three and a half million
Italian citizens living overseas. Gino Bucchino's electorate is North and Central America.

GINO BUCCHINO: [L'Unione coalition] We are still Italian. We are still Italian. We have been, we
decide to go outside working and in search of work and a better life because we couldn't do it here
in Italy but still we are Italian and we helped Italy in the difficult era of the 50, the 60, with
our money coming from outside. We really helped Italy to survive so now is the moment that Italy
have to give something back to us.

CAFAGNA: Expatriate MPs have been working together and now have a common strategy.

GINO BUCCHINO: We gave a gift incredible to the Italian, to Romano Prodi and so it can have a
strong government thanks to the Italian abroad.

CAFAGNA: So Prodi owes you.

GINO BUCCHINO: Yes. Italy and Prodi owe us, yes.

MARCO FEDI: I feel both excited and a bit concerned. I'm not really sure what I have to do. For
instance if I have to go and sit down and stay there on my own all day or just, seeing all these
old Parliamentarians knowing what to do and.... but I think I'll manage. I'll follow what they do.

CAFAGNA: The big day has arrived, the first day of Parliament.

MARCO FEDI: It's a historical moment for us because we finally have this political direct
representation in Parliament. Now we have to make sure that we make a difference and that's the
challenge.

CAFAGNA: Marco finds his place among the six hundred and thirty MPs who make up Italy's lower
house, the Chamber of Deputies. It's a nervous start but after just an hour, the session is over.
Time for an espresso. The Italian Senate is made up of more, let's say mature age folk, some of
them life members. No one younger than forty is allowed to take a seat in this chamber. Being a
senatore appears to suit Nino well.

SENATOR NINO RANDAZZO: [To press waiting outside] There are some formalities. Now the voting is
starting now.

CAFAGNA: Nino emerges for a moment, pursued by the paparazzi.

SENATOR NINO RANDAZZO: I don't know whether I'm coming or going. I'll let you know later.

CAFAGNA: He's keen to get back to cast that all-important vote. His first time in the senate voting
booth passes without incident.

If it's a nerve-wracking experience for our two new MPs on their first day today then it's
positively a life or death for the Prime Minister elect Romano Prodi. If he fails to win a majority
vote in the Senate here behind me, then his government will surely be a short term one.

Outside, Rome is chaotic most days and that's mirrored inside the Parliament where the Berlusconi
forces stall and filibuster to make the point that the Prodi Coalition may not be able to govern
effectively with such a tiny majority.

Senator Randazzo emerges unscathed to face the media glare. The Italian newspapers describe his
trademark hand gestures as a "Christlike wave". They've taken a liking to the Australian senatore
and it's mutual.

His work for the time being is done in Rome. It's off to visit family and friends on his home town
island in Sicily. It's a six hour trip from Rome to Salina by plane and then two ferries. Senator
Randazzo was running late but a well placed phone call ensured the boat didn't leave without him.
The crew were not amused.

CREW: Seven minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED INTERVIEWER: Seven minutes for senatore.

CAFAGNA: Even for the crewmen, it's worth the wait and this is just a stop on the way to Salina.
The local TV interviewer describes his triumphant return as a fairytale come true. He's collared by
someone who thinks the senatore is his local member. He wants a roof built on the ferry stop. And
it's back on board for the final leg to Salina.

Nino first left the island more than fifty years ago. Like millions of other post war migrants, he
was searching for a better life in a faraway land of opportunity. It took him to great success in
Australia, first as a journalist, then editor of the country's main Italian language newspaper. He
returns here often but this time as a newly elected senator, Nino is feted as a local hero.

Nino comes to pay tribute to two women who have most influenced his life. He calls them his "two
smiling ladies". One for his mother's gravesite, the other he takes to the church where he was
baptised. He credits the Madonna with giving him the strength to carry on.

SENATOR NINO RANDAZZO: It all goes back to about twelve months ago when I was seriously considering
abandoning the campaign trail in Australia. I found it too stressing, too tiring but my sister
called me time and time again over the phone telling me don't do it. Go ahead. Two smiling ladies
on Salina telling me that you must go ahead and that you will succeed.

CAFAGNA: Nino's links to this island are strong and he tends them carefully. When he's there, he
still stays in the four hundred year old family home where he was born.

SENATOR NINO RANDAZZO: I was baptised into the church and I grew up in the shadow of this church.
See this, this house? Something like seven children were born from my mother's side.

CAFAGNA: Over the decades, Italy's poorer southern regions have given up their citizens to
migration. There are immigration museums dotted in small towns all over Italy. This one is on the
Island of Salina in Sicily. The population here is two thousand but more than ten thousand people
have left these shores over the past hundred years, headed for Australia. Many of those people say
up until now, the Italian Government has failed to adequately recognise them.

SENATOR NINO RANDAZZO: And when we think that, over the past century and a half of Italian unity,
sixty million Italians have moved away from Italy - which is the equivalent of the present
population of Italy - you think that they should have thought of this diaspora long ago. They have
not and suddenly for the simple fact of the representatives of some of the representatives,
parliamentary representatives elected abroad for the very first time there are holding the balance
of power all of a sudden they've taken this interest in the Italian community abroad.

CAFAGNA: The passion for Nino now is to make this Italian experiment work. While it has cost Silvio
Berlusconi office, it has opened new possibilities for Nino and Marco and their dream of success on
a global scale.

SENATOR NINO RANDAZZO: This experiment could be a very small step towards something which will
probably happen in a century or more, that is world citizenship and I think this is the first step,
a very small step but it's a step in that direction, a marvellous direction of world fraternity and
solidarity.

MARCO FEDI: With Italian communities abroad we'll be clear. We'll try to simplify the complex
Italian system in order to tell them exactly what the situation is. We'll never lie. Lying is
something that happens frequently in parliament and in politics. I don't think we'll change in that
respect. We'll always be Marco Fedi, Nino Randazza the "odd couple" but very loyal to everyone.