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[Live-Blog] Joseph Muscat, Simon Busuttil square off on Xarabank

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Opposition leader Simon Busuttil go head-to-head in televised debate

26 May 2017, 8:45pm
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Opposition leader Simon Busuttil (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Opposition leader Simon Busuttil (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
22:54: And the debate ends here. A report will follow shortly… thank you for following us!
22:52: Muscat: “We choose Malta from the day we’re born. It’s not easy when people lie about you and your loved ones. I promise to reunite this country more than ever. We achieved a lot during these four years. There are three questions to answer: are families better off? Are businesses doing better? And I believe that the answer is “yes” for both. We all love Malta and those who love Malta don’t speak against it abroad. Who do you trust the most to take care of the country? That is the choice you will make.”
22:49: “The decision to be taken on 3 June is crucial: do you want to retain the most corrupt government or should we take the opportunity to turn over a new leaf? There is a lot for which the Prime Minister should resign for. I can’t imagine what crisis there would be in Russia if Vladimir Putin were to listen to you and resign,” Busuttil says.

He said that “trouble” under the Labour government started from the day it was elected. Busuttil expresses confidence that the people will write a new chapter for this country. “I believe that people will choose Malta.”

22:47: And we’re back again for the conclusions
22:36: From proposals back to the Egrant inquiry: talking over each other and Peppi is forced to intervene; Busuttil reiterates that Muscat pressured the magistrate and Muscat said it was the other way round: “You told the magistrate it would be his problem [if the inquiry is concluded after election and PN would have won],” Busuttil replies.

“You are the one pressuring the magistrate… you said it would be impossible for the inquiry not to find anything,” Muscat replies.

Ad break number 3 drowns out the leaders’ shouting

22:32: Muscat reassures GGH workers they will not lose their job… and before we know it they’re talking about body language and sweaty hands. At one point, Busuttil asks whether VGH have an account at Pilatus Bank.

“You tell me because you apparently have a copy of all the bank’s accounts,” Muscat retorted, calling him desperate.

Busuttil retorts that even Muscat’s body language was betraying him, to which Muscat sarcastically comments that he should employ him as his consultant. “If we’re talking about body language why don’t you show him your sweaty hands? You are desperate,” he says, before calling Busuttil “a chicken” for not accepting the challenge.

22:26: Busuttil pledges to return the Gozo General Hospital back to Gozitan: “The first thing I will do is to send the Gozo Minister to the GGH and tell them that we are taking the hospital back.”
22:24: “How negative Muscat has become… every proposal we say must be wrong… what happened to all that optimism,” Busuttil says before replying what the PN is proposing for the elderly. [Peppi had to prompt him again: “The elderly?]

Muscat says the PN’s proposals for the elderly were not sustainable whereas the Labour’s were.

22:21: Muscat says that they will enjoy a second five years of record employment and economic growth; Busuttil says his proposals fight precarious work; On businesses, Busuttil speaks of incentives that help SMEs; Muscat reminds Busuttil had written a manifesto pledging a reduction in income tax… and it was the Labour government that implemented it; and Muscat warns that the PN’s proposals were not doable without increasing VAT. “Busuttil was the sponsor of precarious employment,” Muscat retorts.
22:19: Busuttil’s favourite proposal? Kicks off by saying that Mario de Marco denied owning a company in Cyprus. “Good, now we’ll publish the evidence,” Muscat retorts. “Will you force him to resign?”

“Why do you want me to resign?” Busuttil replies.

He then says that his favourite proposal is free childcare for all – and the two leaders bicker on whether childcare services should be free for all, including parents who don’t work.

22:17: Muscat’s favourite proposal for children: “Planting a tree li for every child is born and increasing children’s allowance.”
22:15: Ad break over and we’re back
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat arrives at Xarabank's studios (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat arrives at Xarabank's studios (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil on his arrival at Xarabank's studios in Qormi (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil on his arrival at Xarabank's studios in Qormi (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
22:04: Ad break number 2 and the leaders have been told to prepare points on the proposals that “excite” them the most.
22:03: “Let me repeat it… part of the Fenech Adami investigation was sealed and is being investigated,” Muscat says.

“The report was published,” Busuttil insists.

“I’ve read it … why doesn’t Simon Busuttil lead by investigation and sack Beppe Fenech Adami? Remember all the scaremongering four years ago [that Labour won’t work]? It’s the same tactic… the proof of the pudding is in the eating and you know that what they scared you about was all a lie.”

Addressing financial services workers, Busuttil says: “You know that your jobs are on the line… even on the gas tanker they wanted kickbacks… You’re listening to Muscat and you’re thinking ‘but this is not I’m feeling’. Our promise to you is that we will clean this country of corruption. Because more important than proposals are integrity and honesty.”

21:58: Busuttil says “three judges found nothing on Beppe Fenech Adami”… and adds that one of the judges was Philip Sciberras “who insults me on Facebook”. Muscat says that investment is still pouring in and Busuttil says financial services and gaming are hanging by a thread.
21:57: “Is an FIAU report an investigation?” Muscat asks.

Busuttil replies: “There are two magistrates.”

“Not true… they revoke your warrant,” Muscat replies. “Everyone knows that the investigation is not a criminal investigation.”

And then Muscat turns the guns towards Beppe Fenech Adami in connection with the CapitalOne Investigation – which FIAU investigation has been passed on to the police. “You want to be credible? Sack Beppe Fenech Adami and publish his letter tonight.”

21:53: Back to power station… Busuttil says the project was doable because of the interconnector and Muscat says it was his government that got the ball rolling. “And yet you thanked Lawrence Gonzi,” Busuttil says… with Muscat quipping that Busuttil was interested in oil as a source because he had an interest.
21:51: The Opposition leader says that companies are waiting for 3 June and they’re scared of Labour winning; Prime Minister says that companies are scared of the coalition because Busuttil “doesn’t understand economics”.
21:50: Busuttil repeats: “We’re going for an election and Joseph Muscat is under an investigation. And it’s obvious that the magistrate will confirm it because there is a whistleblower and an FIAU report that [supports] what she said. Why didn’t he wait? He could have waited it out and called an election as a winner. You, Dr Muscat, are scared of the inquiry.”
21:47: Ad break number 1 is over; Muscat says that Mario de Marco has a company in Cyprus … Simon Busuttil looks confused: “What are you saying?” Muscat repeats it and moves on to PL proposals on pensions, first-time buyers etc..

“You know that we deliver on our pledges.”

21:34: The Labour leader, addressing the people at home, says he wants to talk about the future and what awaits the electorate.
21:30: Muscat says that Busuttil is lying because he was afraid of the truth, “because all his allegations are based on a lie”.
21:30: Busuttil is holding some three FIAU reports – which would show that Muscat’s chief of staff had been under investigation. The allegations are being investigated by two magistrates.
21:28: We’re back at the same point: Busuttil says Muscat can’t defend himself and Muscat says Busuttil took commissions from the Shell settlement payment.
21:26: Sounds like any other Xarabank debate: one speaks and the other interrupts. Essentially, Busuttil accuses Muscat of bowing his head to corruption whilst Muscat accuses Busuttil of being “politically desperate ready to do anything for power”.

“Unlike you, I don’t read FIAU reports and I don’t break the law.”

He reminds Busuttil of a company he represented for nine years and which was given €5 million when Busuttil became deputy leader of the PN.

21:23: Busuttil is quick to quip: “I’m surprised you didn’t ask for Vladimir Putin’s resignation.”
21:20: Peppi presses Muscat about his comment on Magistrate Aaron Bugeja – yesterday during Xtra the PM said it would be Bugeja’s “problem” if the inquiry absolves Muscat but PN would have been elected by then. “Yes it’s his responsibility… but I’ve always said that I respected Bugeja.”

He reiterates that he’s so convinced that the Egrant allegation is a lie that “I’m putting my political career at stake”.

21:16: So Muscat says that he has “a whistleblower” who told him that the TMI report is “incorrect”.

“Yes people have a choice between the negativity of the opposition and the positive pledges of the Labour party,” Muscat says, reiterating that Busuttil took people out to the streets “on a lie which he keeps repeating”.

21:14: First question for Simon Busuttil: will he resign if Egrant inquiry absolves Muscat? Busuttil kicks off immediately with the Malta Independent’s report, holding a screenshot of the website in his hand.

Busuttil doesn’t believe that the Egrant inquiry will absolve Muscat: “I will resign if I’d be the Prime Minister under investigation.”

21:11: Peppi says to stay tuned in after the debate for a feature on the leaders’ lives… Let’s get to the questions
21:07: Good evening everyone… we’re waiting the ad breaks out ahead of a debate between political rivals, Joseph Muscat and Simon Busuttil.

Just a month ago the two were on Xarabank debating Egrant allegations. And today, just an hour ago, the Malta Independent claimed to have read an FIAU report investigating Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.

I think we can safely deduce where the debate will be going…

The leaders of the island’s political parties will face off this evening during a televised debate on Xarabank, hosted by Peppi Azzopardi.

The debate between Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Opposition leader Simon Busuttil is expected to start shortly.

It is expected to be a heated one: just 60 minutes before the start of the programme, the Malta Independent claimed to have seen extracts from an FIAU report that would have revealed the transfer of money from a company connected to the LNG tanker, to a Dubai company connected to former energy minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri.

The investigation, according to the same newspaper, has not been concluded.

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