Tomorrow’s Parliamentary vote on the Bill introducing Civil Unions was another block built by Labour movements along the years adding to people’s rights and equality, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said this morning.
Addressing a gathering at Attard, a highly charged Dr Muscat told his listeners that the movement’s history was won in which people always spoke up for major ideals which were not yet practiced in Europe.
The basis of those ideals was that no one should get involved in a person’s private life. These were major ideas which inspired different Labour movements to fight without precedent for rights such as the vote for women, a retirement pension, civil marriage, maternity leave with pay and the introduction of divorce.
Another block would be built tomorrow with the introduction of civil unions, a step that would be increasing separation between the church and the state and increasing equality and rights.
Dr Muscat said that whenever Labour movements worked for such changes, the majority was against but eventually turned in favour on seeing that these changes were beneficial for society.
“We are once again on the right side of history… This is the Malta I dream about, this is why I entered politics… Be with us on this side.
Focussing on adoptions by gay couples, the most contentious issue in the debate, Dr Muscat said the country had a choice to continue living in hypocrisy.
He said it would have been politically convenient for the government to leave things as they are and allow single gay people to adopt children.
However, he questioned whether this was in children’s best interest. “We have gay couples who are bringing up children... by ensuring they can adopt as a couple we will ensure the screening process will also include the spouse.”
Dr Muscat said the Labour Party parliamentary group and Cabinet were solidly behind the proposed law and assured everyone it would pass through Parliament tomorrow.
But he also appealed for the Opposition’s support as a sign of commitment towards equality and to show how people had matured.
“The Opposition wanted more studies and we acceded to their request to hear from experts. But the experts they summoned in Parliament told us there was nothing to fear in this step and we now have an Opposition that nobody knows how it will vote.”
Dr Muscat said he still harboured hope that the Opposition would eventually back the Bill, pointing out the irony of those who had wholeheartedly supported Malta’s bid to join the EU but who were now straying from the European ideal of equality.
In his first public engagement following last Sunday's incident which saw Dr Muscat and 60 others suffering burns or discomfort to their eyes in what is believed to have been a UV incident, Dr Muscat spoke on the legal notice up for debate in Parliament tomorrow authorising the Education Minister to request data on students from educational institutions.
The Nationalist Opposition have presented a motion against the motion saying it was ‘highly objectionable’ and would create massive problems.
Dr Muscat said that this notice was aimed at identifying young people who were not attending school and find out why so that they could be helped in the best possible way.
It had been explained to all partners in the Jobs+ committee and they did not object to it. The PN’s representative on this committee, he said, seemed to have a somewhat different position than that of the PN parliamentary group and everyone seemed to have understood what the government was trying to do except for the opposition, which accused the government of espionage.
Espionage was when an e-mail was sent by mistake to people telling them how to collect information on people and pass it on to the Nationalist Party, Dr Muscat said.
“What we want is a tool to give the weakest and poorest people the same chances as everyone else,” he said.
Dr Muscat also spoke on the water and electricity tariffs and said that a letter would be sent to all families in Malta and Gozo in the next few days explaining the percentage they would be saving if they retained the same water and electricity consumption.
He also spoke about the government’s work aimed at increasing employment and training young people for the jobs being created.
He noted that half the jobs created last year were filled by foreigners, not those coming here irregularly but foreigners who had to be brought over because no Maltese were found to fill the vacancies.
On precarious jobs, Dr Muscat said that action had already been taken and two companies had been blacklisted form government contracts.
Moreover, an agreement had been reached with an Arms contractor who used to employ 40 workers on a month to month basis increasing the length of his contract on condition that he increased his workers’ wages and employed them for a longer period of time.
“We want to see this system working also in other entities.
“Where we want to go is clear, we want to keep improving the working conditions of the most vulnerable,” he said.