Updated 4.35pm - Added AD statement

A consultation will be launched shortly on setting a cut-off date beyond which all new car purchases would have to be of electric or similar vehicles, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said today.

Vehicle emissions were the biggest source of pollution in Malta, he said. 

Some countries had set 2025 or 2040 as cut-off dates beyond which no new diesel and petrol vehicles may be bought.   

Malta, he said, could see an opportunity for the new generation in this emerging scenario. "We can be a test bed for such technologies, with Gozo even before Malta," he said.

Talk of phasing out petrol and diesel vehicles was welcomed by Alternattiva Demokratika, which in a statement noted that it had first called for the measure in its Zero Carbon Malta 2050 document

READ: France to end sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040

It urged the government to lead the way in the transition by ensuring all government-owned vehicles were switched to electric-powered, and suggested rental cars, public transport and taxis could also be among the first to make the switch. 

AD also called for better bicycle and electric bicycle infrastructure, citing UK research which found massive leaps in use of such alternative transport means when 'bicycle superhighways' were built. 

Labour to back Busuttil's EU nomination

Speaking at a Labour rally to mark the first 100 days of the new government, Dr Muscat also announced that Labour MEPs have been asked to back the nomination for outgoing PN leader Simon Busuttil to serve on a European Parliament panel.

He said that on Tuesday, the European Parliament would be asked to vote on Dr Busuttil's nomination to serve on an EU panel tasked with scrutinising judges and advocates-general nominated to the European Court of Justice.

Labour MEPs have been asked to back Dr Busuttil, he said.

READ: Simon Busuttil nominated to EU panel

"We are Maltese first and foremost," Dr Muscat said, adding that this should serve as an example despite the flak he and his family had suffered at Dr Busuttil's hands. 

Malta l-ewwel u qabel kollox" (Malta, first and foremost) at all times, Dr Muscat said, borrowing Dom Mintoff's best-known slogan.

He observed that it appeared that Dr Busuttil would, however, still be an Opposition MP when Malta government nominations to the European Court came up, and one would have to see how Dr Busuttil acted.  

Reacting, the PN said that it would be happy to back Maltese nominees to European posts "when Joseph Muscat nominates serious people" to posts.

"When Joseph Muscat nominates people who have or defend having secret companies in Panama, he cannot expect or rely on Nationalist Party support," the PN said. 

Barts medical students to start course tomorrow - Fearne

Earlier in the rally, held at the Rialto Theatre, Health Minister Chris Fearne said thirty students will start their medical course to become doctors at Barts medical school in Gozo tomorrow.

“We turn our dreams into reality,” Mr Fearne told the rally.  

READ: VGH to get €36 million for Barts facility in Gozo

Mr Fearne said the current government was focused on raising living standards and social care.  He joked that it would be difficult for the PN to split in two, given that they could not find a single leader, let alone two.  

'We were right to call a snap election' - Muscat

At the opening of his address,  Dr Muscat said the past 100 days were among the most normal that the people had lived through, giving the lie to those who before the last election tried to instil uncertainty and fear of an outflow of investment.

The wisdom of calling an early election, in serenity, was now being proved right. And despite the election, Malta had been able to grow its economy at three times the rate of the European Union. 

The problems which Malta was facing, he said, were the problems of fast growth. These were problems which would be tackled with hard work and confidence because Labour was the only party in Malta that was united.

Dr Muscat spoke on how the deficit had been converted into a surplus, how unemployment was reduced to record lows and power tariffs were cut by a quarter. Labour, he said, had not won the election because it handed out favours, as the PN claimed. His biggest headache was actually how Labourites complained of being 'forgotten' he said.  

Labour won because people could see they were better off than under the PN government. 

And Labour would not rest on its laurels, he said.

Holidays 'to be returned'

Dr Muscat said talks had been started with the social partners on how former public holidays that fell on weekends would be 'returned' to the workers. The issue was how, not if, he said, because the government had an electoral mandate to bring this about.

Dr Muscat said he wished well to outgoing PN leader Simon Busuttil despite their disagreements. 

"We are Maltese first and foremost," Dr Muscat said, adding that this should serve as an example despite the flak he and his family had suffered at Dr Busuttil's hands.

Malta l-ewwel u qabel kollox at all times, Dr Muscat said, borrowing Dom Mintoff's best-known slogan.

Air Malta - make or break

On Air Malta, Dr Muscat observed that talks were being initiated with Ryanair on a codeshare arrangement which would see the Irish airline bringing passengers to Malta for onward travel to North Africa on Air Malta.

He said 'make or break' talks would be started between the airline, the government and other interested parties aimed at growing Air Malta, because only in that way could it be in a strong position to link up with a strategic partner.

Strong bonds take-up

Dr Muscat welcomed the strong take-up of special bonds for the elderly, issued by the government. €70 million issued for take-up in three days had yielded applications for €100 million in seven hours, he said. 

Pensions, he said, would be raised for the third time in as many years in the forthcoming Budget. 

In the first Budget after the election, the government would help the people, not take from them, he said.

Stricter law enforcement

Dr Muscat said the government would ensure there was strict enforcement of laws governing tables and chairs placed on pavements by restaurants. For example, somebody given a permit for five tables could not end up taking the whole pavement, he said. 

He said he had also instructed the police to be stricter in the enforcement of traffic regulations, particularly drink-driving and using the mobile phone at the wheel.

He also wanted to see better law enforcement in areas at Marsa, Birżebbuga independently on the nationality of the law breakers. 

He said Marsa open centre would be closed down and the 100 or so migrants would be taken to Ħal Far, where other facilities already existed.  

At the same time, the government would work for integration rather than risking the creation of ghettos. 

He also wanted to assure the people of Birżebbuga that the police would be vigilant to ensure that there was no anti-social behaviour. 

On the proposed legalisation of marijuana, Dr Muscat said such a reform would not mean that everyone could start drug-taking. But solutions so far had not worked and methods needed to change. The plan the government was proposing would make for more effective law enforcement.

Measures to eliminate plastic bottles

He also referred to the need to clean-up Malta and said the government was eyeing measures how plastic bottles were eliminated through the introduction of financial compensation for returns.

  

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