Updated | Debono turns down offer for talks, issues salvo on ‘bully’ Austin Gatt

Nationalist MP wants reduction in utility bills or government faces ‘big problems for next Budget’.

Franco Debono (background) has dubbed Austin Gatt and his entourage 'untouchable bullies', and warned that he wants to see lower utility bills.
Franco Debono (background) has dubbed Austin Gatt and his entourage 'untouchable bullies', and warned that he wants to see lower utility bills.

Updated with comment from Finance Minister Tonio Fenech at 11:07am.

Nationalist MP Franco Debono has repudiated an invitation by finance minister Tonio Fenech to share his ideas about how to reduce utility bills, after posting a salvo in his personal blog this morning attacking investments minister Austin Gatt as a 'bully'.

Reacting to Fenech's comments to MaltaToday this morning at a press conference that unveiled the PN's new 'Labour won't work' billboard, Debono said he would not share his "good" ideas.

"I have learnt my lessons well. You blame others for your failures whilst you steal other people's good ideas. I have put forward fundamental ideas in justice and home affairs and in constitutional matters and you know what I got from the party? A condemnation and election ban," Debono said, who has been banned from contesting the 2013 elections after voting for the resignation of home affairs minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici in an Opposition motion.

"Now you ask for my ideas? How rude! With all due respect Minister Fenech... if you have no ideas, move out of the way and let others take control.

"You should refrain [from] tackling this issue on the same model you have been doing over the past years in your home economics, particularly in refurbishing and cleansing of your home!" Debono said, referring to allegations that the minister's home renovation works in Attard had been carried out by the Montebello Bros firm in a bid to secure his influence on a property sale.

Earlier this morning, Debono sounded a new battle-cry against Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and investments minister and political rival Austin Gatt - whom he now dubs "the bully" - saying he wants to see lower utility bills for the next Budget.

"I wish the Prime Minister and his family a good holiday. In the meantime let it be clear that if this burden is not going to be lifted from Maltese families then the government is heading into big problems for the next Budget," Debono wrote this morning in his flegdling blog.

It will be Gonzi's first challenge as the summer recess gives way to an animated political season, when parliament goes to vote on a budget which now needs the support of independent MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando. Facing little space for manouvre due to increased spending and a tight deficit-reduction programme, Gonzi could have little room for reduced utility bills that put a further strain on the financing of Enemalta.

But Debono, who has previously claimed he would not support Gatt as long as he remains a cabinet minister, is now upping the ante in yet a new challenge to his own government: reduce the utility bills first raised by Gatt under his cost-recovery strategy for Enemalta, when he was minister responsible for energy.

Labour has also set much store in promising reduced utility bills if elected.

Finance minister Tonio Fenech invited Debono to make his own proposals on reducing utility bills, when asked for a reaction to the MP's latest salvo at a PN press conference this morning. "It's Labour who should tell us how they intend reducing utility bills. Government made its own sacrifice in absorbing the increase in the international price of oil in January, not to pass on the increase to consumers.

"If Franco Debono has any proposals on reducing utility bills he is more than welcome to discuss how this can be done. On our part, we will be presenting a responsible budget."

Coming just two days after a PN mailshot from the Prime Minister telling families to relax on their summer holidays, Debono's timing is not uncanny: "Whilst some people are on holiday, others are struggling to make ends meet especially due to inhumane and cruel utility bills which have burdened Maltese families for the past years ever since 'the Bully' decided to play his antics once again on his favourite victim: the whole Maltese population," Debono says, referring to Gatt.

Debono said he has "valid ideas" to counterbalance the "atrocities committed by the 'Untouchable Bullies'."

"Bullies have no place in politics, let alone in the politics of a small island. Bullies have debased politics and brought [about] the troubled situation we are in now. Bullies mean trouble and more bullies."

There is no love lost between Debono and Austin Gatt, after the MP nearly cost him his cabinet position when he abstained in a motion of no-confidence filed by the Opposition back in November 2011. Gatt's head of secretariat Manuel Delia is now being fielded as a candidate in Debono's fifth district, while Gatt's former right-hand man Claudio Grech is also contesting the next elections.

"I remember objecting in the parliamentary group to the cruel increases which have destroyed families and brought people on their knees, pointing out [that] people will never understand the increase at a time when oil prices were going down. Others objected too. You can imagine what il-Bully's reply was," Debono wrote in his blog.

Debono has been banned from contesting on the PN ticket in 2013 after voting for the resignation of home affairs minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici with the Opposition.

The MP now says Gatt should be responsible for the mismanagement in the energy sector.

In another blogpost, Debono reiterated his claim that he would not support a prime minister held hostage by people like Austin Gatt, and said Gonzi's reshuffle in January 2012 did little to quell the MP's ire. "The real and greatest problem was not who wasn't appointed to Cabinet, but who wasn't removed."

"Can this country tolerate a minister (Austin Gatt) and his band of merry men in various government boards and entities playing musical chairs, committing one blunder after the other, not resigning after BWSC, not resigning after Arriva, burdening the Maltese population with cruel water and electricity bills, declares he is not even contesting the next elections, and he continues to act and is allowed to act by the prime Minister as if he is an untouchable 'li hadd ma jista ghalih'? (an untouchable)."

Debono accused Gatt of having disgusted "thousands of Maltese people including Nationalists" and causing harm to the PN and government.

"People don't like bullies. Someone who is confrontational by nature does not become a 'doer' because [he] exhibits his bullying tactics and gives vent to his anger, with the excuse of getting things done."

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Johann Tonna
I agree with Dr. Debono that PN has been stealing ideas from the opposition and this has had the effect of enhancing the egos and ministerial performance of high officials in Government. Although this might be taken lightly we have intellectual property for software and reading material, it might be appropriate to use copyright on political and economic ideas, because we are speaking to people who have studied doctorates and probably paid (or where sponsored) considerable education fees. Dr. Debono had also highlighted the issues of wage imbalances i.e. why do two people with similar qualifications carry out roles on different levels, where, for example Dr. Gatt is a minister and Dr. Debono is an assistant. Why is the career model in the Government of Malta based on seniority? I think this was challenged by Dr. Muscat already, who had mentioned that his model is based on meritocracy. And finally, is it so difficult to understand these concepts and turn them into action, or are our politicians completely playing blind on the popular emotional and common sense knowledge of observers, including the media?
Oliver Magri
naqbel ma dawk li qalu li kellu cans hafna li jehles mil bullies imma kollha tilifhom. Franco kelb li jinbah ma jigdimx. Storbju biss ghandu, ara JPO inqas paroli u jwettaq. paroli si fatti no.
Nenu Zammit
Ta ćaću jdoqq bil kbir.
Wayne Pace
Franco mur strieh u halli lil min jistrieh. Mur ikteb xi naqra Haiko. Issa drajnik thassrilna (tipprova) il-vaganzi. Ghal-partitarji li vvutawlek ihossu li int tradejthom bil-kbir . Issa kif il-Gvern ikun irid jghajjat elezzjoni jaghajjat ghal-vot ta’ flus, u l-ballun jigi f’siqek biex tiskorja fil-lasta tieghek. Jekk nitilfu l-elezzjoni ghandna bizzejjed f’min inwahhlu.
Brian De Bono
Dr Debono imissek ivvutajt kontra l ministru Gatt meta kellek ic-chance u mhux astjenejt. Issa ikollok ic-chance fil budgit.Taf x ghandek taghmel. Imma nisperaw li din id darba mhux paroli imma l poplu fatti jrid. Bil paroli si u fatti no, titlef il- krettu
Andre Schembri
Agree with you alwenzu. It seems he lost his ba-----. We are fed up of his tantruams.
Stefan Aquilina
Paroli, teatrini u kummiedji ghandek Franco ghax meta tigi ghas si u n no dejjem terga lura. Issa ser ikollok cans tad-deheb meta tivvutaw fuq il-budget, ha naraw kemm ser twettaq dak li ilek u ghadek thambaq dwaru !!!
Saviour Cassar
jien ma nafx kif franco ghadu jissaporti l arroganza ta l imperatur tal belt.ghad ghandek c cans sabiex tehlisna min din l arroganza,uri li int mintiex parti min gonzipn u ghamel dak li ghandek taghmel..issa wassalt ghal fatti ,il paroli spicca.
Yanika Chetcuti
Prosit Franco. I have been advising you that you should not give up. You are an asset to the Maltese general public and your worth has been noticed. You have to try harder still, and keep coming up with workable proposals, as you did in the legal field. Of course, you will not seek re-election this time round, but I am sure your cleansed party, after 5 years in opposition, would be running after you to join in as an MP or even eventually as a Minister.
Claudette Abela Baldacchino
@KZD. I'm not sure who is the bully. Most probably GonziPN is the bulliest of all. Without majority in the country, without majority in parliament, assuring us that he wants a clear majority but still insisting on continue governing....for the good of the country. Or for the good of the party? As according to GonziPN itself 34 is a number greater than 34. I'm now getting confused!!
delia alfred
"We have only one prime minister...." KZD. Are you sure about this?
Michael MIller
FD please give a break. If you know how to lower electricity bills you should speak. It is to no avail that you say you proposed many things and no one took note and more suspended you. But know it is a question of conscience (you believe in it!) to propose..or else please stop
Raymond Mintoff
Much as I despise Franco's diatribes since he seems he does not hae the balls to take it to the end, his arguments and protests hold much water. The problem with the man is that he's undecided on how to act to make changes in gonzipn. He cannot or does not have the guts to make the final step, and that is worse than anything he does.
Raymond Mintoff
Tonio Jetsety Fenech is asking for ideas to lower the electricity bills. How about stopping works on the Valletta disfiguring project for one. Why spend €.5 million on recolouring airmalta? How about changing the enemalta board with proper experts in oil procurement, they have proven that they are a bunch of cwiec maltin after all.
Janice Sant
Franco, taghmel sewwa tiggieled kontra l-bullies, dawk li minghalihom jafu kollox u wikkewlna power station ghadu dejn u li jhammeg daqs tanker; smart city li ma hadmet lil hadd; Arriva reform li ma ghogbot li gerfxett lil kulhadd, u bridge li fuqu tista biss tmur tistad ghall-mulett!
Dr Debono wara l-ministri Gatt, Mifsud Bonnici, Cassar u Fenech, ma min imissek taqbad? Ghidilna.
Thank God we have Franco Debono to speak up for the man in the street. While the PM may afford his holiday I on the contrary was served an W & Elec. suspension notice. So much for the slogan: BIEX INT TGHIX AHJAR - VOTE P.N. Thanks but no thanks. I will be voting PL for the first time in my life. Signed DISGUSTED.
maria aquilina
emmanuel grech
Bhas-soltu Franco ghandu mitt ragun. Napprezza li min hu nazzjonalist b'mohhu maghluq ma jiehux gost bi kliem bhal dak, imma zgur li kull malti jghid fil-qiegh ta' qalbu: kos sewwa qed jghid Franco. Austin Gatt jibqa' msemmi fl-istorja tal-pulitka Maltija aktar ghal mod goff kif jagixxi bih ma kulhadd u ghall-frejjeg kbar li ghamel, milli ghal xi gid li seta ghamel f'hajtu. K'allajrid dalwaqt jisparixxi mix-xena politka u forsi jintefa ghal-kwiet f'Marsalforn biex ma jdejjaq lil hadd.
Brian De Bono
Dr Debono......kellek kull chance li tivvota kontra l - bully imma you chickened out. Imma issa jkollok chance iehor fil budget. Ta minn isemm i li Dr, Muscat ilu ghal dawn l ahhar 4 snin jghid lil gvern biex irahhas il kontijiet ta dawl u ilma ghax dawn gabu piz zejjed fuq il-familji u l-industrija. Imma int ma tajtux appogg.
Caroline Caruana
I think that Franco Debono is the bully because he is trying to hold the government at ransom as every time he speaks he makes threats that its either his way or no way. Who's the bully again?! We have only one prime minister so please Franco sit down and let the PM focus for the common good, not for your personal agenda! The sooner you are out of politics the better for the country.
Manuel Scicluna
Franco, you had your chance to bring down Gatt and you blew it. Why don't you disappear, we know your "threats" and how you chicken out at the last moment. BTW HAVE you resigned from the PN, or have you not?

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