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Monday, 26 November 2018
Page: 11366


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (14:09): I thank the Prime Minister for his words. The Bourke Street attack that cost an innocent man his life, injured two others and gripped Melbourne with shock was horrific and confronting and appalling. But it was also, sadly, familiar. Swirling rumours and shaky footage on social media; texts and calls between city workers and loved ones. The change from the usual, 'What time do you think you'll be home tonight?' to 'Are you safe? Are you okay?' The anxious wait for how many people might have been injured or worse. Then, of course, there was the genuine, spontaneous, limitless admiration for the police, the first responders, the courageous passers-by and especially, as the Prime Minister has said, the frontline Victoria Police officers. There's been constant coverage and speculation as to what drove this individual to inflict this senseless violence on strangers. And then later there have been the tears, the tributes, the flowers and the funeral. The world has known too much of this and Australians were reminded that we are not spared, that we too are not immune. And it is always important for us in this place to declare and affirm that terrorism is not and never will be part of the normal course of events. It is not the way of the world. We do not have to change who we are or how we live simply to accommodate terrorism. Instead, we must stand together to eliminate it: together as a parliament, as a people, as a country.

I want to join with the Prime Minister in saluting the efforts of our national security agencies, including their arrest of three individuals just last Tuesday allegedly planning to do us harm. Every Australian is grateful for the work that they do to keep us safe. For five years now the Labor opposition has applied a straightforward principle to working with the government on national security policy: when it comes to fighting terrorism, we are in this together because, whether it comes cloaked in the form of violent Islamic extremism or in any other form, terrorism is an offence against every faith. I wish to make it clear that the actions of a few violent extremists and unwell people do not reflect the broader Muslim Australian community and all here understand that. Terrorism is an attack on all peoples, on the shared values of our humanity itself, and the toll it inflicts is not an abstract ideological concept. As we remember today, it's a human one.

I recall, perhaps with some embarrassment, that as a nerdy year 11 student I took a friend to Pellegrini's for a date. I remember how proud I was to be acknowledged by Sisto and Nino with a friendly 'ciao'. I basked in the reflected sophistication. And then, when your coffee arrived in a glass, you were truly a peak cosmopolitan in early 1980s Melbourne! So many Melburnians have a Pellegrini's memory. When you popped into Pellegrini's for a coffee in the morning or a plate of pasta before the football, gelati after the theatre or, indeed, stretch across to the Spaghetti Tree, you never felt like you were ever witnessing a performance. You weren't just a number or a face in the crowd. Sisto's son, David, gave a wonderful speech at the state funeral. He described his father's philosophy in the following terms: 'When you enter the room, greet everyone in the room. You always say please and thank you. If they leave or you leave, you say goodbye. You treat everybody with courtesy regardless of their circumstance or their station in life.' This was his gift: making people feel welcome, radiating a genuine warmth and affection, a kind word, a smile, a laugh for all.

It was on the Monday before this dreadful event, the Monday before cup day, and the top end of Bourke Street was beautifully quiet. I was walking past Pellegrini's. I popped in for a coffee. There was, of course, the Big Issue seller outside. Nino was sitting outside at one of the seats, talking to a friend. It was a typical crowd: there was a PhD student there, a couple of police officers, a couple of Salvos and a tourist or two—and of course Sisto himself. As usual, while I was there we talked a bit of shop before Sisto cajoled me to try a slice of his almond sponge. After gamely resisting for at least 10 seconds, I gave in. He then proudly told me that he'd become a grandfather the previous week, before insisting I eat some more of his baked cheesecake.

I wish I could tell the parliament, and I wish I could recall, something profound from when we shook hands and we farewelled each other that day, but it was a casual goodbye. It was a friendly 'See you soon,' because you couldn't imagine what was about to happen. Indeed, it was so much the same as an earlier visit. With that twinkling in his eye, because he really liked the little children. Sisto offered my eight-year-old daughter, Clementine, a bowl of his minestrone soup. Clem politely said, 'No, thank you.' She was leaving room for dessert. But in the days after we heard this terrible news, I went into her to read her a story before bedtime. She was sitting up and looking at me. She said: 'I'm so upset about Sisto. I should have tried his soup'. It made me think. Children pick up a lot about what happens in the world and the people who are affected. We have a responsibility to them to make them realise that it's not how it should be, this violence, and that the world can be better.

I'm sure in the past few weeks thousands of Melburnians have been revisiting their last conversation, their final interaction, not realising it was indeed that. But for all of us it was probably nothing more than the usual brief, cheery encounter—a pleasant part of a normal day. You can't help think that that's the way he would want to be remembered: a proud son of Italy who gave so much to Australia, a man who lived the truth of the Australian migrant's story—long hours, hard work and sacrifice so his family would enjoy a better life—and a smile we'll all remember as we walk past that famous neon sign. Our love to his family: may he rest in peace.