[WATCH] Labour Party will always remain the underdog, Muscat says

The Prime Minister reiterated his determination to reform Malta’s IVF laws and address the problem with the affordability of housing, insisting that the Labour Party had always faced an uphill struggle to implement its reforms

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

Despite winning two general elections by a record-breaking margin, the Labour Party remains the underdog in local politics, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said this morning.

Muscat was reacting to Nationalist Party (PN) deputy leader Robert Arrigo’s warning yesterday to the PN’s general conference, where he called on supporters to rally behind the party and its leader, because a further slump at the polls could result in the Labour Party clinching a two-thirds parliamentary majority.

Describing Arrigo’s warning as a fantasy, Muscat insisted that over the course of history, the Labour Party has always been faced with challenges.

“This is because every road we have faced has never been simple, let alone easy. We have always encountered an uphill struggle,” he said. “The more uphill the struggle, the harder we work and the faster we reach the top.”

Law will allow more women to become mothers

Muscat was speaking during a political activity in Tas-Sliema on mother’s day, where he said the day was all the more special this year because it came at time when the government was looking to legislate for more people to have access to In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment that was more likely to succeed than the current legislation allowed.

“What we are proposing is simply to give more women the opportunity to become mothers,” said Muscat. “By doing so we’re going beyond the card, the bouquet or the visit to the grave, and are giving hope, a voice and a future to hundreds of families.”

He said mother’s day was a particularly difficult day for those who had lost their mother, as well as those who could not have children.

“They can’t simply because they are living in Malta, because had they been living in many countries around us they would have been able to do so,” he said, adding that Maltese people who could afford to, instead went abroad to do what Malta didn’t allow them to.

The bill, which is currently being debated in parliament, has been controversial, and Muscat said the government was willing to find ways of improving the law.

“We are willing to discuss everything except the principle,” he said, adding that the most important principle in this case was the discrimination between those that could afford to go abroad and those who could not.

He hit out at those who were engaged in what he described as scaremongering, insisting that this would not deter him from doing what was right. “What is wrong with helping more people become parents, and having more women next year that are able celebrate mother’s day. ”

On embryo freezing, Muscat reiterated that Malta’s laws allowed for this to happen in exceptional cases, meaning that the practice had been accepted in principle. He said the proposed law put responsibility for frozen embryos on parents, adding that even if the law weren’t as strong as it was, the fact remained that the couples who needed IVF were not choosing to do so lightly.

He said the procedure was a long, complicated and painful one that was not guaranteed to succeed.

“After all of what they have to go through, you are going to tell me that these people wouldn’t first try and implant those embryos in themselves,” insisted Muscat.

Electricity tariffs will remain stable

Reacting to criticism surrounding Electrogas, and Malta’s shift to gas under former Energy minister Konrad Mizzi, which has been the subject of a number of reports and allegations by the Daphne Project, Muscat insisted that his government’s strategy had brought stability to the country.

He pointed to US president Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, adding that this had led to a spike in oil prices around the world.

A spike, which would affect the world’s middle-class and which will see many governments have to increase electricity prices in their countries but which the Maltese government would not have to do, Muscat said.

In Malta, he said, nobody feared that tariffs would be increasing once again because the government had ensured their stability through its decisions. 

He added that those criticising Malta’s energy strategy were in many cases ignoring the “simple point” that peace of mind and stability had been prioritised. 

Existing arrangements on social housing to be respected

Turning to social housing, Muscat said the government was working to address the issue, but could only do us using the “tools it has at its disposal today”.

He said the country could not expect to dictate what private citizens did with their property, pointing out that landlords would prefer to have an empty property than be held back from turning a profit. “On the other hand they need to understand that the law of the jungle there is today is not acceptable.”

He said this did not mean that the private sector would be made to carry the weight of social housing, which is why the government would be investing €110 million in new social housing units.

Muscat reiterated that the government would no longer allow social housing to be inherited, if it was not required, but clarified that this would apply to new social housing units, and not arrangements that were already in place.

He stressed however that the government needed to ensure that the new units being developed where used in a way that did not leave problems for future administrations.

He said that ultimately, the Labour Party remained united, and that the unity it enjoyed transcended political victories, but rather was rooted in its desire to do what was best for the country and future generations.