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SPEECH - CONDOLENCE MOTION: CON SCIACCA AO - CANBERRA - THURSDAY, 22 JUNE 2017

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Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Since we first learned the sad news yesterday afternoon, I've had fond conversations with Con's family, former colleagues, people he mentored and fought alongside.

I'll always be grateful for Con's friendship, for his humour, for his advice and for his unflinching support - a gift which he extended to all his friends.

Sometimes when people are very ill, we don't get a chance to say that final goodbye. I was fortunate that I was able to do so a couple of weeks ago.

But even then, the fighter was still fighting. He grabbed me by the arm and he asked: 

"Billy, are the Caucus in line? Are they behaving?"

I confess, I made a favourable comparison to the other team.

But Con was more than just a wonderful friend, a family man and a mentor.

He was a patriot, a first-class Minister, a fearless warrior for the Labor cause.

Yesterday, Bill Ludwig told me the story of when Con was offering himself forward to Paul Keating as the Minister for Veterans' Affairs with that special responsibility for commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Second World War.

There was, as this House will appreciate, lots of to-ings and fro-ings and scientific analysis as to the merits of various candidates for ministerial office.

But Bill chuckled as he told me that Con explained his case was beyond doubt. His Italian heritage uniquely qualified him for the role. After all, he said, his people had been on both sides of the war.

Whatever the logic of ministerial appointment, Con's work on Australia Remembers campaign, I think, is a gold standard in how we commemorate the courage and sacrifice of all those who served our country.

When he returned to the parliament in 1998 as Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs under Kim Beazley, Con relished the opportunity to celebrate his own heritage and Australia's great multicultural character.

As a successful man from humble beginnings, he shared a deep affinity with those who came to this country seeking a better life for their families.

However high he was raised by political, legal and commercial success, he was always the son of Salvatore. Always the son of a father who left Sicily to cut cane in Queensland so his kids would have a better life.

Mr Speaker

During those last few very difficult years, and particularly the last six months, but indeed, further back than that, Con had wonderful support from so many people.

His beloved Karen, his daughter Zina, his sister Sarina, his brothers Joe and Phillip, his step-sons Nick and Dan and his many cousins – particularly Connie who kept him well-fed with the very best in authentic Sicilian home-cooking. 

Most importantly at the end, he wanted to live for his darling granddaughter, Grace.

Con adored Graziella. She always brought a smile to his face, no matter the pain he was in.

As he fought on, Con's home was always full of visitors, his phone was always ringing with warm wishes and love from his friends.

So many proud Labor people who relied on Con's wisdom, enjoyed his friendship, and had their success in part because of what he’d taught them – called or came to visit.

Kim Beazley, Annastacia Palaszczuk, Wayne Swan, Milton and Cameron Dick, Greg Rudd, Jim Chalmers and too many more of my Federal and State colleagues to name.

But the goodwill didn't just come from our side of politics. I guess it's the mark of the man.

I know that the Member for Warringah, the Minister for Health, the Minister for Immigration, Brendan Nelson, Santo Santoro, Larry Anthony and many more rallied around Con when times were tough.

On behalf of his family, and our Labor family, I thank them for that.

The greatest sadness in Con's life came from that unimaginable experience, the death of his son Sam, from Ewing’s Sarcoma in 1992. I hope that they're re-united now. 

Con, you gave us ‘Australia Remembers’.

Today, we say: we will remember you.


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