Prime Minister emphasises government drive for change, importance of new IVF law

Annual General Meeting sees Joseph Muscat go through Labour administration’s achievements and highlighting the importance of change

Change is paramount, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said during today's Labour Party Annual General Conference
Change is paramount, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said during today's Labour Party Annual General Conference

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has stressed that it is essential that the current “antiquated and discriminatory” IVF law be revamped, in a speech at the Labour Party’s Annual General Conference characterised by references to the government’s efforts to bring change, and to what it had achieved since being elected to in 2013.

“We are now at another point, where those families suffering from infertility are calling upon us,” he told supporters, as he described the pain couples felt when, after many years of trying, they could not have children.

The current law offered such couples only a small chance of having children, and they sometimes had to turn to treatment abroad, which was very costly, Muscat said.

“I am here for these people. I want change for them. We are the voice of these thousands of families,” he said to cheers from the crowd, underlining that Labour’s electoral manifesto had been very clear regarding changes to IVF treatment.

“The current law needs to be changed, and will be changed.”

“I greatly appreciated the viewpoint of the Church in this regard. Not the government, not the Labour Party, and not even this morning is looking for another politico-religious fight - we suffered enough because of these before,” Muscat said.

Regarding embryo freezing, he said the principle of this had been already introduced with the 2012 Embryo Act, but the people who are criticising it now were back then silent. What the government would be doing is putting into the effect the principle, and emulating international best practice.

“Changes to the IVF law will mean twice the amount of embryos will be saved than what happens now,” he said.

Labour could be elected three or four times in a row

Change is never easy, Muscat said, and there are few who have the will, strength and determination to undertake it.

“The forces scared of change will try to stop it,” he emphasised, “History, however, is written by those who work for change. Ten years ago I said I am entering politics to bring change - this was the beginning of a programme of change.”

The government had twice in a succession been trusted to put into effect its programme, but if it kept to its current mentality, Labour could be elected three or four times in a row, he maintained.

“We symbolise change, and this is clear to everyone. We are criticised because we are innovative… and we are not scared to take decisions.”

“But others have a crisis of identity, and this leads them to only be able to take one position - that contrary to change,” he said, “… they try to cause people to fear the future.”

“We were never afraid to tell people things had to change, even when this was not the popular stand,” he said, “Think back to 1971 - many people at the time depended on the British naval base for work. Prime Minister Dom Mintoff, during the election, asked people to vote for him, although the only thing he could promise them is that they would lose their jobs [since the British would be leaving].”

“But were people afraid [to vote for him]? No, they thought of the future.”

Movement won’t end with Joseph Muscat

He spoke of the criticism previous Labour administrations received for the measures they had taken, such as giving the vote to women and decriminalising sodomy.

“We were not always on the right side of history, but on balance, we should be proud of what we did,” he said, “This movement did not start with Joseph Muscat and won’t end with Joseph Muscat.”

Turning to the economy, he said the past Nationalist administration had lost hope that the economy could progress.

“We undertook paradigm shift in how our economy works,” he said, underlining that the government had been willing to work with everyone, leading to people starting to have faith that the economy would be changing for the better.

The largest surplus ever, the reduction is debt, the creation of a new middle-class came about as a result of a change in mentality, the underscored.

How could Delia vote against domestic violence bill?

Muscat then spoke of the domestic violence bill parliament passed this week in parliament, asking how anyone could vote against a law protecting victims of such violence.

“How can you every justify a vote against victims of domestic violence,” he said, referring to Opposition leader Adrian Delia, who had voted contrary to the bill, “What kind of conscience do you need to have to do this?”

The government was also on the right side of history when it granted the right for same-sex couples to marry and adopt, he said.

What we are achieving now is preparing us for the Malta of tomorrow, Muscat said in his concluding remarks, to a show of enthusiastic support from those present.

A number of other Labour Party officials spoke of the government’s success stories throughout the past five years, including Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, MEP Miriam Dalli and former tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis.