MPs to sit on government boards - Busuttil
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil this evening criticised the government for planning to move legislation which would enable it to appoint MPs to the boards of government entities and authorities.
The criticism was made at the end of the debate on a government motion to thank the President for his address at the opening of Parliament.
Dr Busuttil also presented an amendment to the motion. He said the amendment was motivated by the Opposition's regret that the government had used the Address for partisan ends and this had harmed the Office of the President, which should represent unity.
The Opposition, he said, remained committed to seeking unity as well as consensus within the House.
However the Opposition would not shirk its role as the political opposition.
Speaking in Parliament, Dr Busuttil said seriousness demanded that the Presidency should be respected.
The President's Address, prepared by the government, was full of political slogans and it was aimed at humiliating the Opposition. As a result it had undermined the respect which the presidency should enjoy.
The Opposition, Dr Busuttil said, was being constructive in parliament and had declared it would back all seven bills presented by the government so far.
However the government was using every occasion to attack the Opposition left, right and centre whenever it did its duty to monitor the government.
The Opposition had spoken of the risk that the government's actions would lead Malta to an Excessive Deficit Procedure. This was a risk which the government could have avoided, but it didn't. It failed to convince the European Commission that it had a plan to keep control of public finances, after having inherited a strong and stable economy.
That the government had inherited a stable economy had been acknowledged by the prime minister, and, therefore, he could not blame the former government for the Excessive Deficit Procedure. Indeed, the deficit in the first three months of this year, under the PN government, narrowed when compared to last year.
The last information the PN government had was that the deficit last year should have been under 3%. Under the PL, the deficit crept up to 3.3%. Should that have happened under the PN, its government would have presented a concrete plan to curb it.
It would not have appointed a huge Cabinet, engaged so many workers, stopped the school-building programme or stopped the private emergency service at St James. It would not had rationed the 'eternal' flame for the war dead, which was a shameful way of trying to reduce costs.
This government, Dr Busuttil said, was suffering paranoia. There had been criticism because an MEP had asked a question about the power station. Would he be charged under the Foreign Interference Act if he came to Malta?
This government was not keepingthe promises it had made in its speeches or even the President's address. The slogan Malta Taghna Lkoll had been ridiculed and showed up to be a serious deception.
This government was elected on the promises of meritocracy, transparency and good governance. What good governance and meritocracy was it to move people from the PL campaign billboards to the boards of government entities?
What good governance was it to breach European law by forcefully replacing the board of the Malta Communications Authority, which was a regulatory authority?
At St Vincent de Paul Home, more than 90 transfers were made and the situation there was chaotic. For the first time in years, the country was again speaking of 'vindictive political transfers', in some cases to the detriment of pensions.
This also applied to Mater Dei Hospital.
The Opposition would stand by these workers, Dr Busuttil said. What was happening was contrary to what Dr Muscat promises about being ready to work with those who disagreed with it.
MPS TO BE PUT ON GOVERNMENT BOARDS
The government was now planning to move a Bill to amend the Functions of Members of Parliament.'
What the government was proposing, he said, was to remove the ban on the appointment of MPs on government boards and authorities. The end purpose was to make it possible for the government to pay its backbenchers by giving them a position on government boards. Among them them were the Occupational Health and Safety Authority, the Cooperatives Board, the Artisans Boards, the Sports Council, Malta Enterprise, the Malta Film Commission, and the Domestic Violence Commission. These boards could now include Labour MPs so that they could be more in control. This government was bent on grabbing everything.
It appeared that this law was also being amended so that the Leader of the House would no longer need to be minister. As if 23 ministers were not enough for this government. It appeared some other backbencher wanted another position.
Malta now had a part-time minister who had time for private practice. Why not put him as Leader of the House.
Such measures did not inspire confidence in the government and its promises of meritocracy.
CODE OF ETHICS
Turning to the changes planned to the Code of ethics, Dr Busuttil said the Opposition was of the view that it would be a mistake for the code to be changed in a way to allow private practice, whatever it was. Dr Muscat had been against ministers being paid their parliamentary honoraria once they were ministers. Now Dr Muscat had to live by his own standards.
He hoped the prime minister would not weaken ethics. Should be attempt to do so, the Opposition would voice its Opposition. And until the Code was changed, it had to be respected, and no Prime Minister had the authority to grant waivers, as Dr Muscat was doing.
Concluding, Dr Busuttil said the Opposition was not seeing a new style of government, but rather a return to practices of many years ago.