ONE MADE A CITY SMILE, ANOTHER BROUGHT HATRED
Today’s columns are right here at the Daily Telegraphhomepage. And here’s last week’s column, on Melbourne, immigration and terrorism:
Sisto Malaspina emigrated to Australia from Italy in 1963. Industrious and ambitious, within 11 years he’d saved enough money to invest in a Melbourne restaurant with his friend of many years Nino Pangrazio.
Between them, the pair set about establishing Pellegrini’s as the city’s finest coffee shop. They knew to leave well enough alone; during all their decades of ownership, the place barely changed at all. And right up until last Friday, 74-year-old Sisto was still putting in huge hours at a job he adored.
“I work my 70 hours a week as I did, 40, 45 years ago,” Sisto told SBS just last month.
“It’s not as intensive, I don’t move as fast and I don’t take as many steps, but I still enjoy what I do. I feel needed,” he said. “I’ve been blessed with good health. I don’t feel any different now than I felt when I first started.”
Now compare Sisto to another immigrant. Hassan Khalif Shire Ali arrived in Australia with his Somalian family during the 1990s. By all accounts a completely useless fellow, Ali’s primary achievement seems to have been getting himself added to ASIO’s terrorism watch list.
In 2015, by which time Sisto had racked up some 140,000 charming, charismatic hours among his friends and customers at Pellegrini’s, Ali’s passport was cancelled due to concerns he planned to join Islamic State butchers in Syria.
Despite those concerns, a Joint Counter Terrorism Teams investigation found that Ali did not pose a threat to national security. He remained on ASIO’s watch list but was largely unwatched.
On Friday, the very different lives of Sisto and Ali briefly intersected. Taking a short break from the restaurant, Sisto had walked about 400 metres downhill on Melbourne’s Bourke St when he saw a ute crash and catch fire.
Sisto’s immediate impulse was to help.
“A really tall black guy was near the car, but then someone was approaching the car and he was checking to see if everyone was OK,” witness Tony Nguyen told the ABC.
“And that’s when the man stabbed the other guy.”
Besides inflicting fatal injuries on a gentle, elderly man who had become a grandfather for the first time only a week or so ago, Ali intended to kill many others. The rear tray of the ute he’d set ablaze contained three gas cylinders, which if they had ignited may have created a gigantic fireball.
Fortunately, 30-year-old Ali was an idiot who evidently knew nothing about the mechanics of combustion. His bid to incinerate hundreds of people failed. So Ali then attacked two further people before being confronted by fast-acting police.
Those police were instantly made aware of Ali’s savagery. “Passers-by were calling out that members of the public had been stabbed,” Victoria Police Superintendent David Clayton told reporters.
A number of my friends and family are members of the Victorian police force, and to an individual they are among the best and bravest people you will ever meet. But members of the force are presently hamstrung by timid and politically-correct police management, which may explain why reports of African gang riots so frequently feature the line: “no arrests were made”.
Remember, this is the same police force that hit Canadian conservative Lauren Southern with a $67,842 bill for protection from leftist thugs during her mid-year speaking tour.
Official directives may also explain why phone video of the Bourke St confrontation showed police armed with guns repeatedly backing away from Ali, who was armed only with a knife. “The cops were trying to hit him with batons and he wasn’t going down,” bystander Drew Hair told AAP.
At one point homeless man Michael Rogers intervened with a more useful weapon – his shopping trolley. “I threw the trolley straight at him, and I got him. I didn’t quite get him down, though. I’m no hero,” Rogers, now more than $30,000* richer following donations to a GoFundMe site, later said.
The public demand for direct and conclusive action against terrorists is plainly greater than that approved by police management directives. “A lot of bystanders (were) actually just screaming at the police officers, because the police officers were trying to take the knife off him and arrest him but bystanders were yelling out ‘just shoot him, just shoot him’,” a witness told the ABC.
“Just shoot him” should be the starting point for terrorism protocols of every law enforcement entity throughout the land. Eventually an officer did fire on Ali, who later died in hospital. No great loss, except for the reduction by one of the 400 or so names currently on ASIO’s no-watching watch list.
Sisto’s death, obviously, is another matter entirely. Everybody in Melbourne has a Pellegrino’s story, usually featuring its beloved co-owner. “My best friend in Melbourne went there from when she was 16,” film producer Philippa Bateman wrote online on Saturday as flowers left by mourners piled up outside the restaurant.
“They kept her fed when she was a student. She’d give them $20 for a $12 meal and drinks and Sisto would give her back $18.”
“I busked outside the café a few times and have never been treated better than Sisto treated me,” Ingrid Elkner wrote. “Offers of coffee, spaghetti, and smiles.”
Pellegrini’s was my favourite interview site when I worked in Melbourne. Because it is just down the street from Parliament and around the corner from Her Majesty’s Theatre, staff and customers were used to famous folk and wouldn’t interrupt for autographs. Within Terry Pontikos’s tribute on this page is a shot of me interviewing comedian and RocKwiz creator Brian Nankervis at Pellegrini’s in 1988.
Famous or unknown, all adored Sisto, Nino and their eternal ways. Uluru is more flexible than was Pellegrini’s under their brilliant management. “I remember the first, and only, time I asked for a soy milk coffee at Pellegrini’s,” journalist Mark Gambino wrote on the weekend.
“Sisto shook his head and chuckled while the barista made me an espresso instead.”
Sisto made a great deal of his life, and made Australia a warmer and better place to be. The Islamic State garbage who celebrated his death wish to utterly destroy us. In Sisto’s name, always know this.
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*The GoFundMe appeal established for Rogers quickly raised more than $120,000, but Trolley Man has since been charged with several burglaries and thefts:
Michael Rogers, 46, last night handed himself in after police revealed the have-a-go hero of Bourke St was wanted for questioning over the alleged incidents.
UPDATE. Ibrahim Abbas, convicted of planning a huge terror attack upon Melbourne, explains his motivation:
“If Sharia was applied in Australia … all the people would fall under a contract. They would have to sign a contract to live with, among Muslims in peace,” he told police.
“Whoever does not sign that contract either leaves the country or is executed. He’s given the chance to leave the country. If he doesn’t want to leave he gets executed.
“I believe Islam is a peaceful religion …
“I believed it was obligatory upon me to eventually commit an act of terror.”
Victoria’s top cop has revealed the organisation would have been aware that the Bourke Street terrorist’s passport had been cancelled through its role in counter-terrorism activities with federal agencies.
Comments this morning by Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton on 3AW radio — that “we were as aware as federal agencies on that” — are at odds with Victorian Attorney-General Martin Pakula’s insistence on Friday that information about Hassan Khalif Shire Ali’s passport having been cancelled had not been conveyed to Victoria Police.
Mr Ashton also confirmed that he withheld information about Shire Ali being on bail when he was asked directly at a press conference on the evening of November 9 attack that left one man dead and two injured.