The Malta Independent 16 October 2019, Wednesday

Majority of people realise government’s position ‘untenable’ – Marthese Portelli

Rachel Attard Tuesday, 30 May 2017, 07:35 Last update: about 3 years ago

In the last week of the election campaign, Rachel Attard caught up with Nationalist Party candidate Marthese Portelli to ask her about the last four years of a Labour administration and the way forward

In the last election you were barely elected.  How did the last four years in Parliament improve your chances of getting a better result?

Having managed to get elected from the 9th district in the last election is already a big achievement in itself.  Back in 2013, I was a newcomer to the district - I was running alongside the Deputy Leader, Ministers, established candidates who already had a seat in Parliament and other very valid candidates who were newcomers like me.  Back then, I got elected off the votes of Dr Simon Busuttil, who this time round will not be contesting the 9th District.

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The fact that during these four years I have worked relentlessly on issues that are of national interest and district level issues, and the fact that I was entrusted with several parliamentary responsibilities definitely gave me the opportunity to prove myself, which is why I believe people will vote for me and  get me elected with an even better result.

Immediately upon my election to Parliament, I was appointed as the Opposition Spokesperson for EU Affairs.  I also represented the Opposition on two parliamentary committees, the Foreign & EU Affairs Committee and the Social Affairs Committee, and also the PN representative on the MEUSAC Board.  Subsequently, in January 2015, I was selected as one of the ten shadow ministers appointed to the Opposition Shadow Cabinet, where I was given the responsibility of Shadow Minister for Energy, Environment and Transport.  I also represented the Opposition on the Parliamentary Committee for Environment & Development Planning and the Diabetes Working Group.

All my efforts as a member of parliament and Shadow Minister can be summed up follows: 1,200+ parliamentary questions, 350+ press releases, 110+ press conferences and 70+ Parliamentary debates.

 

The two districts you are contesting on are far from each other and require a lot of travelling. What impact did this have?

It definitely needs a lot more planning and management especially when it comes to organizing house visits, press conferences, tv debates and events.  But on the other hand, technology helps me to make the best use of my commuting time.  I am lucky to have one of my campaign team helpers who drives me around all day and therefore I use my commuting time to answer emails, messages and return calls.   Moreover, my professional career has taught me how to cope with the extra pressure of having to reach out to areas which are significantly distant from each other. On a professional level I have clients both in Malta and in Gozo.

 

You had a big shadow ministry. Don’t you think, with hindsight, that you had too much on your plate to handle?

I have to admit that I was quite taken aback when I was called to Dr Simon Busuttil’s office and told what responsibility I was going to be entrusted with.  It is true that I was given a big shadow ministry.  I shadowed 4 Ministers – the Prime Minister himself, Konrad Mizzi, Joe Mizzi and Jose’ Herrera.  Those who know me know that I am a results-driven person and that I am not afraid to take on challenging tasks.

Let me mention a few national issues that I championed.  I have spoken vociferously on the exorbitant fuel prices and campaigned for cheaper prices.  In fact I am pleased to state that the PN has bound itself to immediately reduce fuel prices by 5c/litre, and to always keep the price below EU average.  I have also spoken out on the shady deals entered into by Joseph Muscat’s government and put forward parliamentary motions and even asked for NAO investigations on the same. I have publicly defended Enemalta, Water Services, Planning Authority, ERA, MPT, and Wasteserv employees.  I have campaigned actively and defended business & residential interests in the sham Paceville Master Plan proposed by Joseph Muscat’s Government.  I led the debates on behalf of the Opposition on the SPED and MEPA demerger and much more.

I have also worked relentlessly on district issues – the saving of Wied Ghomor from illegal development, the proper staffing and 24x7 opening hours of police stations, neighbourhood watch and CCTV monitoring, upgrading and upkeep of roads and pavements, cleanliness, parking issues, better enforcement of foreign numbers plates, public transport and much more.  In fact one of my moments of satisfaction was when the Planning Authority Chairman threw out a Wied Ghomor planning application on a technical  point that I constantly harped on both in parliament and during the hearing itself.

I have also published 2 out of the 7 PN policy documents – “Reducing Traffic Congestion - Short Term Measures”, a document with 35 actions to mitigate traffic in the short term and “A Better Quality of Life for You”, a document with 171 measures on how to improve the environment we live in, both of which have been publicly endorsed by MCESD members and other stakeholders.

To get back to your question, from the feedback I am continuously receiving, both from the party and from the people I meet regularly on the campaign trail, my work has been seen to be very positive.

 

Independent surveys are showing a gap of 5 to 6% gap in favour of the PL. On the other hand the PN is saying it can win the election. Why are you giving hope to the people that you are going to win?

As you know that percentage is within the margin of error and the election can go either way.  A day in politics is a long time - there is still another week to go. 

Also, the fact that I am getting very good feedback on our electoral programme, the fact that people are fed-up of corruption and scandals, the fact that more and more people who trusted Joseph Muscat last election are now openly saying that they will be giving their vote to the PN, all point to a doable PN win.

I sincerely believe that the majority of people have realised that the current government’s position is untenable, and the only way forward for Malta is to have a change of government.

 

If the PN loses, and does so by a margin similar to that of 2013, do you think Dr Busuttil should resign?

Simon Busuttil, along with all of us, has worked hard in these 4 years to be in a position to be a strong Opposition and this has resulted in people believing in the PN again. Also the PL has led this country through a web of deceit and corruption and therefore I am confident that the result of 2013 won't be repeated. 

I believe that Maltese people have always risen to the occasion when the country needed change, and Malta needs a change from this government.

 

Which is the biggest challenge that Gozitans face today?

The lack of good job opportunities and business opportunities in Gozo.  This has seen an exodus of Gozitans to Malta, Gozitans who have either relocated permanently to Malta or who commute on a daily basis. 

The PN acknowledges that Gozo needs special and specific attention – in fact we have an electoral programme specifically designed for Gozo with 100 proposals intended, amongst other issues, to address this job and business opportunity deficit in Gozo.

 

 

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