Saturday, 6 February 2010

Times: No place for homophobics in Labour's new movement - Muscat

Thursday, 4th February 2010 by Kurt Sansone

Joseph Muscat speaking during a question-and-answer session with Labour delegates at the party's headquartes in Ħamrun. The meeting was chaired by former Super One head of news Miriam Dalli.

Those who hated gay people or who believed that being gay was a sickness had no place in the new movement of progressives and moderates, Labour leader Joseph Muscat said yesterday.

Defending the notion of a state that did not pry into the private lives of individuals, Dr Muscat said the rights of gay people were central to the principles of the new movement.

"Being gay is not a defect, not a sickness or something bad. Gay people have a right to a dignified life," he said, insisting this was one issue that signalled the difference between the new movement and the Nationalist Party.

Dr Muscat was speaking during a question-and-answer session with Labour delegates chaired by former Super One head of news Miriam Dalli.

The session formed part of the party's marathon 10-day conference, which ends on Sunday. The one-and-a-half-hour long event was filmed for transmission on Super One and each time he answered the questions, Dr Muscat stood up from the stool he was sitting on.

Fielding questions from the floor, Dr Muscat said a Labour government would give police officers, soldiers and other uniformed corps members the right to join a union, however, without the right to strike.

He said that in its 90th year of existence, the PL would be asking people to submit their ideas on a new emblem to replace the traditional torch and it would be the party's 25,000 members who would choose the final design.

The brief for the new emblem was ready, he added, and it reflected the party's aspiration to become a movement of progressives and moderates.

The choice of emblem was cosmetic, Dr Muscat said, but it signalled the party's intention to continue changing even after this general conference, which had the aim of turning the party into a movement, was over.

A sure sign of the PL's attempt to reach out towards the middle ground was Dr Muscat's reiteration that the "responsible reduction of taxes" was central to job creation.

"I know this is not traditionally part of a social democratic party's discourse but if it helps to generate jobs and incentivise work we should have no problem to adopt it," he said, underlining that for some time the PL stopped talking about work.
Urging Labour delegates not to take victory at the next election for granted, he said the "best days for this country were yet to come".

"I do not want this party to suffer from overconfidence as it did in the last election. We have to keep our feet on the ground," he said in answer to a question by a veteran activist who was worried that the party was capable of winning every electoral appointment except the general election.

Dr Muscat said there was a time when the Nationalist government was working well and did good things for the country but accused Lawrence Gonzi's Administration of losing its "bearings and its soul".

"The country needs change but we also have to have the courage to acknowledge what is good," he said, insisting this was part of the mentality change the party had to undergo.

"It is easy to say no; more difficult to say yes. But change is our lifeblood," Dr Muscat said.

Earlier, the Labour leader commemorated the nine drydocks workers who died in the Um el Faroud explosion 15 years ago to the day.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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