Saturday, January 19, 2013, 11:22 by Kurt Sansone
AD members meeting to approve electoral manifesto. Photos: Kurt Sansone
[Click on the hyperlink above to watch the video.]
Alternattiva Demokratika has approved its electoral manifesto that makes reference to gay marriage, drug decriminalisation, a vacant property tax and a higher minimum wage.
Party members gathered at the Osborne Hotel in Valletta this morning unanimously approved the 94-page manifesto, in Maltese and English, and the election candidates.
AD is the first political party to launch its manifesto covering a number of policy areas including the family, the economy and public finances, foreign policy, the environment, animal rights and energy.
AD chairman Michael Briguglio criticised the income tax cut announced in the Budget because the only way the country could do this and still raise more than €80 million in income tax - a Budget forecast - was by having economic growth that surpassed that of China.
"This is truly an Alice in Wonderland decision," he said, using the same jibe the PN has used to describe Labour's energy plan.
AD was the only party that said from where it will get the money to finance its proposals, he added, noting that government had to ensure it had the right revenue to finance social welfare programmes.
The Greens have so far been the only party to propose the introduction of a new tax and this will be levied on the third vacant property onwards.
Increase the minimum wage
Make child care universally available for free
Increase maternity leave to 20 weeks, introduce two weeks paternal leave
Introduce full marriage rights for gay couples
IVF should also be available to gay couples
Tax vacant property, from the third property onwards
Lower VAT on goods that form part of the basket widely used by low income earners
Agree with an EU-wide financial transactions tax
Ban circuses that use performing animals
Ban spring hunting
Decriminalise personal drug use
"We are the only true progressive party with a vision to safeguard the environment, social justice and sustainable economic policies," Mr Briguglio said, hitting out at Labour and PN for disagreeing with the introduction of a "very small" financial transaction tax proposed by the European Commission.
He defended his party's proposal to increase the minimum wage, saying it will encourage people on welfare benefits to find a job. "In this way work will truly pay and it will help lift people out of the risk of poverty."
He said the PL proposal to increase the minimum wage only when the economy grew, did not make sense.
The party is also proposing extending maternity leave to 20 weeks and the introduction of two paid weeks for the father and full marriage rights to gay couples, including the right to adopt and have access to in-vitro fertilization.
In a preamble to the manifesto, AD says that if elected to Parliament it will work with another political party based on an agreed programme, pledging to seek political consensus that "will ensure stability".
Mr Briguglio said AD will be the voice of reason in Parliament. "You may not agree with what we say but you know where you stand with us," he insisted, urging people to break the two-party deadlock.
In an impassioned speech Arnold Cassola, foreign affairs spokesman, said AD may be a small party but was big on ideas and "by far the best" because people knew where they stood with the party.
He lamented the treatment of AD during television discussion programmes and insisted the two major parties feared a debate on equal footing.
The annual general meeting also approved a list of candidates who will be contesting on all districts and candidates for local elections in Sliema, Marsascala and Santa Venera.
The election candidates are: Arnold Cassola (1st and 9th), Mario Mallia (2nd and 8th), Carmel Cacopardo (3rd and 11th), Angele Deguara (4th and 9th), Robert Callus (5th and 11th), Silvan Agius (6th and 12th), Ralph Cassar (7th and 11th), Michael Briguglio (8th and 10th) and David Camilleri (13th).