[WATCH] Government planning major rent policy and female participation reforms, Joseph Muscat says

Prime Minister promises that next budget will see pensions increased, student stipends raised, and an additional day of vacation leave given to workers

Prime Minster Joseph Muscat was speaking during a Labour Party rally in Valletta
Prime Minster Joseph Muscat was speaking during a Labour Party rally in Valletta

The government will not rest on its laurels following its victories in the European and local elections, and is planning major reforms in the coming weeks, including in the area of rental policies and female participation in public life, the Prime Minister said.

Joseph Muscat said that the Labour movement didn't just work for elections and subsequently "let things die", but it had a clear five year plan, which will now include new laws giving "clear rights" to tenants renting property and more policies related to the participation of women in politics.

Muscat was speaking at a rally in Valletta on Sunday morning, after his party's sweeping success in last week's MEP and local council elections.

"This is not a movement which works for elections and then lets things die. It has a very clear five-year plan," Muscat said.

He promised that next budget will see pensions being increased, student stipends being raised, and workers being given an additional day of vacation leave.

"We now need to start work on major reforms - including rent policies which grant balanced rights and responsibilities to landlords, but most importantly clear rights those who are renting, because that is what they deserve. We will also be showing where we want to go when it comes to the participation of women in politics."

Despite the success the government had achieved in the area of gender equality, it had not yet managed to increase the representation of women in Parliament to at least 40%, he said, therefore necessitating a "leap forward" in this regard.

"When it comes to local councils and Parliament, we are still behind, although we've gotten there in the European Parliament. We now need to make not a step forward, but a leap."

Muscat noted that only 27% of elected councillors were women. "We cannot be happy that we only have one in four councillors who are female. So we need to work and put in more energy towards increasing female participation in public life."

A united movement

The Prime Minster said that what distinguished the Labour Party following the positive results of last week's elections was that it was a united movement.

In clear reference to the tribulations within the Nationalist Party, Muscat said that a party could never aspire to unite the people if it itself was disunited.

"I want to emphasise the point of unity. The movement is not one person, it is all of us. And the lesson we learnt - after 10 electoral successes, one bigger than the other - is that unity is crucial. And unity comes to be when we trust each other, when the "we" is bigger than the "I". My appeal for the future is that the "we" remains bigger than the "I" - this is what makes us different," he said.

Directing his message to Labour's local coucillors, Muscat said that his party would not be intruding on their work, but would be making sure that they upheld their three main duties:

"The party's job here is threefold: firstly, to ensure that all councillors do what they promised they would, secondly to ensure councillors and mayors operate according to the party's pricipals of social justice, social mobility, equality and unity, and thirdly to drive the point that those who were elected weren't elected because of their individual selves, [but because they ran on the party's ticket], the "we" is bigger than the "I", even in the local councils, and since you were elected as a team, you have to all work as a team," he said.

Remarking that 70% of local councils in Malta and Gozo were now under Labour's responsibility, Muscat said that, when it came to Valletta, which voted for a majority of Labour councillors following a long history on having a Nationalist council, the responsibility of the mayor and his councillors was especially great.

"How can I not congratulate my colleagues from Valletta? ...But they have a big responsibility, because of the symbolism of Valletta as Malta capital. The scrutiny on you will be greater than ever before. My appeal is to give Valletta the dignity it deserves," he underscored.

'Very disappointed at Metsola and Casa'

Muscat said he was "very disappointed" that after the Maltese people had sent such a strong message against negativity in the European elections, PN MEPs Roberta Metsola and David Casa had hurredly left to the European Parliament after their re-election, to continue working in the same way as before.

"It is not my business what happen in the Opposition. But I am very disappointed that - after the Maltese people sent such a strong message that while it was that there is scrutiny of the government, it will never accept that people actively work against the country - 24 hours after the elections' result was issued, the two Opposition MEPs left Malta in a hurry to continue with their same story," Muscat said.

"Faced by this negative attitude, let there not be anyone who thinks we will give up or be demoralised. This attitude strengthens, unites us and increases our resolve more. Positivity will win over negativity. And if they [the PN] didn't learn their lesson about 10 losses, they will have to learn it after the eleventh loss at the next general election," he said, to cheers of "Joseph, Joseph".