Parliamentary speeches

On the Bourke St attack

November 27, 2018

I rise to make a brief contribution to this important debate on indulgence. I start by associating myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. It was a privilege to be in the House for their remarks, which summed up our response to tragic events and our responsibility to look beyond those events.

In making some very brief remarks, I want to speak as a Melburnian about what unites us. I was very pleased to be here for the contribution of Minister O'Dwyer, the member for Higgins. I'm also very pleased to be here with you Deputy Speaker Kevin Andrews and my friends the member for Melbourne Ports and the member for Deakin—all Melburnians, who differ on issues from time to time but, I think, share a love of our city and a responsibility towards it in this place and as Melburnians.

I want to talk both about what happened in Bourke Street and what it means and also about Pellegrini's and what it means and what Sisto meant to so many. I will do so in turn briefly. I've only been in this parliament a very short time, and this is the third occasion that I've spoken on indulgence about a senseless act of terror in Melbourne—with different causes, actually. It brings me enormous sadness, and I think it presents us all with a great challenge to recognise all of the great issues that we have to wrestle with and to recognise the burden that's placed on our first responders—and I acknowledge their efficiency, their professionalism and indeed their heroism, and that of the ordinary Melburnians.

Those of us who have spent our working life, or a large proportion of it, in the city understand the dynamics of Bourke Street at peak hour on a Friday. It's pretty easy to think about what an awful change those few moments presented to all involved, not just Sisto, who tragically lost his life, and others who were injured—and I know my friend the member for Bass will touch on that shortly—but to all of us. How do we get the balance right between facilitating the joy and excitement that is Melbourne on a Friday evening, celebrating the freedoms that we cherish, celebrating our civil liberties, and ensuring we are all kept safe? I know that we have processes in this place which have served us well, and there are processes undertaken by the Victorian government too. It is important that we strive for bipartisanship. It's important that we strive to engage community on this journey—in particular, the wider Muslim Australian community, especially those who I am very proud to represent in this place, in the electorate of Scullin, who have expressed their horror at the events that defile their religion as well as our city.

To Pellegrini's: I think all of us have memories, and I don't pretend that mine are particularly important beyond myself, but I think that, in Pellegrini's, we see an icon and, in Sisto, the embodiment of that icon, of generosity, of our best side—a multiculturalism born of sharing and an interest in others which I think characterises Melburnians at our best. I think it was a fitting recognition of an extraordinary individual that the Premier offered the Malaspina family a state funeral. It says a lot about Melbourne. We care a lot about coffee, and we care more about people who shape our city. It was wonderful to see the representation at that funeral, and it was a privilege to hear from the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, who represented the Prime Minister there, and to share his reflections. Perhaps even more wonderful than the acts of political leadership was the extraordinary response from individual Melburnians talking about the joy that Sisto had given them and their families and people that they care about. I think of many bowls of pasta and many more post-lunch espressos enjoyed at the bar, and the atmosphere that was part-cafe, part-theatre that Sisto curated—I think that might be the word. Those memories will live on, as will our enduring love and respect for the man. Our thoughts, of course, are with his family, and I extend them also to those who knew him and loved him more generally.

I ask myself, 'Where to from here?' in considering both of these things—our recognition of Sisto and those directly affected and our response to the challenge.

Well, I think there are complicated debates that require consideration, but there's also the question of our human response, and I was particularly struck by the closing remarks of the Leader of the Opposition when he spoke on this matter. He reflected on his last encounter and invited us to imagine our last encounter, and I think of this as being not just the last conversation between the member for Maribyrnong and Sisto Malaspina but how we always treat those who matter to us—not knowing how many opportunities we have to continue to enjoy their company. I think the invocation for those of us who are charged with legislating and making executive decisions on behalf of Melburnians and Australians is to think hard about the security challenges and to think hard about getting the balance between national security and the preservation of civil liberties right, which is, of course, the purpose of those national security arrangements, but also to think about our responsibility to each other as humans and as citizens, to think about the kindness that requires and to think about what the challenge that the Leader of the Opposition's reflections on a last conversation that he never imagined would be a last conversation means. Rest in peace, Sisto.