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PN deputy leadership Q&A | Simon Busuttil

Staff Reporter
29 November 2012, 12:00am
Simon Busuttil
Simon Busuttil
1. You contested the MEP elections in 2004, and in 2008 as the leading candidate. Despite your record number of votes the PN still lost. With your bid for the deputy leadership election and a general election round the corner, how will it be different this time around?

Over the past 8 and a half years in the European Parliament I have sought to build a bridge of trust with the people I represent. If this trust can serve my party well at the national level, then I want to put it to its service. I strongly believe that the country needs a PN Government to stay the course and continue moving forward. 

As to the MEP elections, it is well known that like local council elections they often attract a protest vote and the PN suffered heavily from this factor on many occasions. The general election is a different story altogether. 

2. The polls show the PN trailing behind Labour. Can the PN win the next general election? You said you want to bring back the voters that have swung to Labour: how will you do this?

Yes, the PN can win the next general election and I would like to help it do just that. I want to help the party bring back lost votes. I want to do this by using the trust that I have built with voters during my eight and a half years in the European Parliament. If voters trust me to represent them in the European Parliament, then I must persuade them to trust me at the national level. I did not let them down in Europe and I will not let them down in Malta. 

3. After the elections, councillors will have to reconfirm the party leadership: something you pointed out recently when saying that councillors should choose you if they think that as the deputy leader you can give the party a better chance of winning the elections. Are you not selling yourself short? Are you saying you can cut the PN's losses in the face of disappointing polls?

It is not a question of selling myself at all. I simply want PN voters, including the thousands of disgruntled voters, to feel comfortable again in identifying with the PN, in trusting it and in feeling that the PN is their party once again. The party is theirs as much as anyone else's. This is the way to get lost voters back. 

4. What would you say was the single most successful achievement of the Nationalist government since 2008, and the biggest regret it could have done without?

The single most important achievement is the PN's handling of the economy in the face of the adverse conditions of the financial and economic crisis. Make no mistake about it: we continued to create jobs because we had a competent leadership and not out of pure coincidence. This is thanks to Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi. 

On the other hand, the biggest regret was the decision on MPs honoraria and I am glad that this mistake was rectified. 

5. Nine ministers are supporting Tonio Fenech's candidature: are you a uniting person for this post?

I perfectly understand that most Ministers endorsed Tonio and I would have been surprised if the opposite happened. Anyone who has worked with me will tell you that I am an inclusive person and a team-player. If I am elected, I will need to work hard enough to gain the trust of those who are sceptical about me. Once you gain trust, you can achieve unity. There is no unity without trust. 

6. Can your experience as MEP bring a more socially liberal direction to the PN to appeal to a particular liberal sector of voters?

My roots are firmly planted in Christian teachings but my experience in the European Parliament has exposed me to other views on social issues. This puts me in a position where I can understand both sides and I would work to come up with proposals that are acceptable to both. The PN is an umbrella party that brings together people with different views. The party can never win an election unless we stay together. And what gels us together is our over-riding interest in seeing the country move forward and continue to improve our standard of living. 

7. You were appointed a special delegate to the Prime Minister to meet civil society representatives: does this not send out the perception that you are essentially already close to the leadership and 'more of the same'?

I am proud to be close to Lawrence Gonzi and it was a privilege to work closely with him. Yet, if I am elected I will strive to complement his attributes of leadership, experience and results with my style, my energy and my ideas. So it will not be more of the same because it will be a new leadership team. 

8. You have no experience in government: how do you expect councillors to trust you with the second most important post in the party, which could also mean you becoming deputy prime minister?

If my lack of experience were to disqualify me from being Deputy Prime Minister how much more would Joseph Muscat's lack of experience in Government disqualify him from being Prime Minister.

9. You had previously turned down an offer to stand for the post of secretary-general. Was that a shortcoming on your part, turning down a request to help the party when it needed you?

On that occasion the party had just won an election and one can hardly say that it was in a difficult position. At that time, I therefore felt that I could serve my party and my country better as an MEP. But now the PN is trailing badly in the polls and it needs everyone's help more than ever. Faced with the stark choice between keeping my career in Europe and helping my party in its time of need, I have made a clear choice to help my party. 

10. You spoke of the need for reconciliation. Would you lift the ban on Franco Debono and the other backbenchers if elected deputy PM?

No. I was present at the party meeting that took that decision and I voted in favour. I have not asked for that ban to be lifted. But once that decision is behind us I see little point in bloodletting. 

11. In 2008, the PN brought in new blood, losing such veteran ministers like Louis Galea and getting Franco Debono instead. Bringing in new blood is obviously not the solution for the PN this time around - in substance, in terms of political issues, what do you feel should the PN be proposing to the electorate for the next general elections?

Your question is based on the assumption that new blood will bring with it new trouble. But that assumption is false and it would close the doors to any regeneration in the party whatsoever. 

As to the general election, the PN should focus on two things. Firstly that the most essential bread and butter issues - your job, your children's education and your family's health - are guaranteed under PN while they could be put at risk by a Labour Government. Second, it must come out with a set of new, innovative and exciting electoral proposals that show that the PN remains a dynamic party with a great ambition to continue changing the country for the better. 

12. What is your stand on the following issues: do you agree or disagree with (i) gay marriage or civil partnerships (ii) IVF and embryo freezing (iii) a detention period for asylum seekers that is less than six months?

In our society, the prevailing view is that marriage should be reserved for a man and woman and I agree that this view should be respected. Short of that, however, I fully agree that gay people should be afforded rights through a form of regularisation such as civil partnership. It would be wrong to ignore the gay community because they are an integral part of our society. 

On IVF, I support the compromise that has just been achieved in our Parliament on the new legislation and this agreement is a tribute to the maturity of both sides to cooperate on sensitive social issues. I hope that this precedent will be followed. 

On detention period for asylum seekers, I support the existing eighteen-month maximum detention period. However, our objective should be to process asylum applications as quickly as possible. Once a person acquires asylum status, they are already promptly released from detention. 

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laurence zrinzo
But Simon has not tackled the main issue. How many asylum seekers is Malta expected to carry, given that Europe is unwilling to share the burden, except for a few token gestures? Is 100 000 enough? If not, how many?
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laurence zrinzo
But Simon has not tackled the main issue. How many asylum seekers is Malta expected to carry, given that Europe is unwilling to share the burden, except for a few token gestures? Is 100000 enough? If not, how many?
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Adrian Zerafa
Dr Busuttil projects himself as the knight in shining armour for GonziPn. He thinks that his 8 years in the European Parliament have made him a super politician , in reality he is nothing more but a made up, big headed wannabe for the GonziPN throne. If Busuttil looses this election for Vici kapo of the GonziPN clan, he can kiss his ambitions for leader goodbye. As for the other contender for this race between friends, least said soonest mended but he is carrying an awful lot of baggage plus he is the chosen one by the oligarchy that is running GonziPN.In reality Simon doesn't stand a chance.
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Albert Spiteri
'My roots are firmly planted in Christian teachings but my experience in the European Parliament has exposed me to other views on social issues. '' OMG, so Simon thinks Malta is hermetically sealed from other views on social issues does he ? He had to go to the European parliament to finally expose himself to these views!!! That provincial is he ? What I think we have here is the classic cognitive dissonant who believes himself a European of the first order but can't help dishing out the parrochial tripe. One question I would like to ask Simon is, how will he address the democratic deficits that plague us by speaking in two tongues, one for Europe and one for hermetically sealed Malta? So what's new Simon, I must say I am so not impressed .
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mark bonavia
Quite obviously, Simon Busuttil is another Gonzi but with an angelic face ! He says only what he believes would be nice to hear. Doesn't seem to have his OWN ideas. Or is afraid to express them !
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mark bonavia
Simon Busuttil has let us down in the EU when he agreed with the "voluntary burden-sharing agreement". As well as when he had voted for ACTA.