Prime Minister Robert Abela said Wednesday that he was speaking the same language as civil society group Repubblika in that both wanted good governance.

He also said he would take tough decisions on good governance, but he would not take lessons from Opposition leader Adrian Delia.

Dr Abela was speaking on TVM's programme Dissett, broadcast from the Auberge de Castille.

Repubblika on Tuesday sent Dr Abela a list of changes it would like to see made to bring about good governance. It has also mounted a legal challenge on the appointment of members of the judiciary.

Dr Abela did not refer to the Repubblika letter. He however referred to the appointment of judges, saying he would not await the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention to propose certain constitutional changes, such as in this sector. 

The need for change had been felt for quite some time and it was a pity that the country had waited for the Venice Commission to point out what needed to be done, he said. This included the way members of the judiciary were appointed, even if the current process was far better than that of 2013.

Dr Abela said he was prepared to meet everyone to discuss the manner of judicial appointments. Everyone had a right to contest the method of appointment, as was currently being done before the European court, but one had to be responsible and careful not to harm the country and the judicial system, he warned.  

Asked whether he was surprised to have won the PL leadership campaign, and having done so with a 58% margin, Dr Abela said people's reactions during his campaign had made him hopeful. He had listened to the people and adjusted his campaign accordingly. That was what he would continue to do, although he would lead according to what was good for the country and according to his principles.

Dr Abela said he viewed Saturday's vote as a vote for him and a vote for change as well as continuity. It was not a vote of no confidence in the Muscat government. The people wanted to retain the good of the Muscat government while changing what needed to be changed. 

The prime minister admitted that law enforcement could have been better over the past few years, which was why the home affairs minister now also had specific responsibility for law enforcement. 

We will not become a police state, but people have to feel secure and confident that there will be justice for everyone

"We will not become a police state, but people have to feel secure and confident that there will be justice for everyone," he said. Further decisions would be taken soon to strengthen the rule of law and good governance.

We will then go abroad to say and show that we mean business, he said. 

However, when asked what he would do about the suggestions made by Opposition leader Adrian Delia on rule of law and good governance, Dr Abela said he would not take lessons from Dr Delia. His way of leading was not an example of good governance, he said. 

That, however, did not mean he would not make certain changes because they were mentioned by Dr Delia.

With regard to the Attorney General, the grounds mentioned by Dr Delia for his removal - because he had lost an appeal in the constitutional court (in the Egrant report case) were not sufficient. The Constitutional Court had not spoken of any misbehaviour by the AG, he said. 

Asked if he would give a role to former prime minister Joseph Muscat, Dr Abela said the former prime minister had indicated he would continue to work within the Labour parliamentary group.  

If he (Joseph Muscat) calls for the introduction of abortion, he will find me against him

Replying to further questions on Dr Muscat's intention to work for greater civil rights, Dr Abela said: "If he (Joseph Muscat) calls for the introduction of abortion, he will find me against him."

Asked whether his wife would have a public role, Dr Abela said his wife would continue to work among the people.  

On constitutional reform, Dr Abela said he saw no need to change article II of the constitution (on religion) especially as Malta was a very tolerant nation.  

Migration

On migration, Dr Abela said that migrants who crossed Malta's border also crossed the EU border and he would press other EU countries to shoulder their responsibilities. Malta should shoulder a burden that was proportionate to its size as should other countries. 

Asked specifically whether he would intervene to stop the deportation of Serbian children who have been refused a residence permit, Dr Abela said he should not, as prime minister, interfere in the proceedings of the Migration Appeals Board, although he loved children and did not want anyone to suffer. Rules needed to be observed, although he would always act in a humane manner. Children should not be a victim of such circumstances.

Speaking on his government's priorities, Dr Abela said one of the priorities was to maintain economic growth, but to also ensure that wealth was also enjoyed by the lower strata of society. 

Referring to the engagement of foreign workers, he said care was needed to ensure that foreign workers were not brought to Malta simply to undermine the wages of the Maltese. 

Living wage unsustainable

He said he wanted wages improved and he wanted equal pay for equal work. But he could not commit to a living wage. It could not be introduced in the foreseeable future as it was unsustainable. 

Dr Abela underlined the need for a balance between building development and the environment. He said that while he had written the statute of the Malta Developers' Association and felt the association had done good work, it, or its members, had sometimes gone beyond what was appropriate in some cases. The Qala case was one case which had disappointed him, he said. 

He was pro-market, he said, but development should not mar the country.  

Asked about harm caused to Malta's reputation abroad, Dr Abela reiterated his view that Malta was not suffering some tragedy 'although we have issues.'

"It is now up to us to convey the message that if mistakes were made, measures are being taken to avoid a repetition."

He defended the citizenship by investment scheme (the sale of passports). Due diligence was tough and many applications were refused, only to be accepted by other countries, he said, although he was in favour of further strengthening of the due diligence process.

Asked about the depenalisation of cannabis, Dr Abela said measures so far had worked and the discussion should be continued.