Bill's Speeches



Thank you, Mr Speaker and 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.
The swirling rumours and shaky footage on social media.
The texts and calls between city workers and worried loved ones, the change from the usual ‘What time do you think you’ll be home tonight?’ to ‘Are you safe, are you OK’.
The anxious wait for how many people might have been injured, or worse.
And then of course, there was the genuine, spontaneous, limitless admiration for the police, the first-responders and courageous passers-by. And especially, as the Prime Minister has said, the frontline Victoria Police officers.
There's the constant coverage and speculation as to what drove this individual to inflict this senseless violence on strangers.
And then there's been, later, the tears, the tributes, the flowers and the funerals.
The world has known too much of this. And Australians were reminded we’ve not been spared, that we too are not immune.
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 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 all in this together.
Because whether it comes cloaked in violent Islamist 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, extremist and unwell people does 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 is a human one.
Mr Speaker
I recall, perhaps with some embarrassment, as a nerdy year 11, when taking a friend to Pellegrini’s for a date, remembering 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 at peak cosmopolitan early 1980s Melbourne.
So many Melburnians have a Pellegrini’s memory.
When you pop 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. Always say please and thank you, and if they leave, or if you leave, you say goodbye.
To treat everyone with courtesy, regardless of their circumstances, 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, that was the Monday before Cup Day, the top end of Bourke Street was beautifully quiet, I was walking past Pellegrinis, I popped in for a coffee.
There was of course, the Big Issue seller outside, Nino sitting outside on one of the seats talking to friend.  A typical crowd: there was a PhD student there, a couple of police officers, a couple of Salvos, a tourist or two - and of course, Sisto himself.
As usual while I was there, we talked a little 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 he’d become a grandfather the previous week, before he then insisted 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 farwelled that day. But it was a casual goodbye, it was a friendly see you soon, because of course you couldn't imagine what was about to happen.
Indeed, it was much the same of an earlier visit. With that twinkling in his eye because he really liked the little children, Sisto offered my 8 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 the terrible news, I went in to read her a story before bed and she was sitting up and looking at me.
She said to me:
“I’m so upset about Sisto, I should have tried his soup”.
It made me think that 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 this is not how it should be, this violence, 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 that it was indeed that.
But I think 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 but think 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 story: long hours, hard work and sacrifice, so his family would enjoy a better life.
And a smile we will all remember as we walk past that famous neon sign.
Our love to his family, may he rest in peace.

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