Muscat says new laws proof of willingness to ‘challenge establishment’

Joseph Muscat lashes out at Simon Busuttil's 'belligerent' attitude, says Opposition leader forms part of the elite and establishment  

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was interviewed on Labour's One Radio
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was interviewed on Labour's One Radio

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat toasted a string of new and proposed laws as proof of his government’s willingness to “challenge the establishment.

“The government doesn’t want to seize power, but rather to introduce systems of checks and balances,” he said in an interview on One Radio, citing new laws to revamp judicial appointments, create a Lands Authority and render Parliament financially autonomous from government.

“This is proof that the government doesn’t form part of any form of elite or establishment, but rather that it is willing to challenge it.”

On the contrary, he said that Opposition leader Simon Busuttil’s “belligerent and antagonistic” displays in Parliament betray the fact that he “forms part of the establishment”.

The “establishment” has been criticised harshly of late, notably by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, US presidential candidate Donald Trump and former candidate Bernie Sanders.

Criticism of the “political establishment” has been a common feature of the ongoing US presidential elections, most notably by candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

Muscat attempted to drive a wedge between Busuttil and his MPs, claiming that Opposition MPs have admitted to him in private that they would rather collaborate with the government on certain issues.

“By observing Busuttil’s body language, it is clear that he has a belligerent and antagonistic agenda and that he wants to pick a fight at any chance he gets. This is a symptomatic attitude of a person who is clutching at straws but still drowning.”

The Prime Minister added that Busuttil’s refusal to take action against his MPs Chris Said and Toni Bezzina undermined his calls for good governance.

Said was criticised by the NAO for “impinging” on a committee’s decision to grant road surfacing funds during his tenure as parliamentary secretary for local councils, while Bezzina lost two libel cases against reports that he had used government workers under his supervision to carry out private works at a PN party club.

“Busuttil chose to defend his MPs for pure electoral reasons, because they are popular in their districts,” Muscat said. 

During his speech, Muscat said that the government will seek to cushion the effects of rent inflation without interfering in the market.

“Rent inflation is a side-effect of Malta’s economic boom and I’d rather solve problems caused by a booming economy, rather than problems caused by a shortage of investment,” he said. “[Deputy prime minister] Louis Grech is working on a strategy to help out those people who truly need it, and hopefully a solution will be on the table before the end of the year.”

‘Malta set to tap into logistics market’

Joseph Muscat announced that he will issue a public call for the development of a logistics hub in Hal Far, as a new economic niche for Malta to tap into.

“We should never grow overly dependent on a single economic sector, and we have identified logistics, as well as education and health, that we want to tap into,” he said. “Malta is situated right next to the largest sea trade route in the world and we must maximise our position,” he said.

As a logistics hub, ships will use Malta as a base to modify their goods before transporting them off to their final destination.

However, Muscat adamantly refused to expand the Freeport to cater for this new niche, arguing that such a move would frustrate Birzebbuga residents. Rather, he said that free trade warehouses will be developed on already built-up areas, which will allow goods to pass through it without intervention by customs.