The Malta Independent 29 September 2022, Thursday
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‘Parliament speeches should be shorter to allow for faster government work’ – Labour MP

Shona Berger Sunday, 7 August 2022, 07:30 Last update: about 3 months ago

Labour Party CEO and MP Randolph Debattista said that if parliamentary speeches become shorter, the work carried out by the government would increase and the speeches would become more engaging for all MPs as well as for those following proceedings. 

“Government has a lot of work to carry out, thus there is a need to have shorter parliamentary speeches. Once speeches are made shorter, the passing of laws will occur in a more fast-paced manner, thus, automatically more work can be discussed,” Debattista said.

Debattista was contacted by The Malta Independent on Sunday after he made a number of suggestions, including that of having shorter parliamentary speeches, in a speech before Parliament rose for the summer recess.

Debattista explained a number of factors as to why parliamentary speeches need to be made shorter, saying that “firstly, due to the significant number of MPs in Malta’s Parliament following the last general election, it is crucial that something is done on the matter”.

He also added that “the allotted time for a parliamentary speech is extreme, at times, also arriving at a point where one feels that the House of Parliament has turned into a lecture hall or a Court room.”

Debattista highlighted that the main purpose of a parliamentary speech is to explain the law, highlight what will be done and what is its effect.

“Parliamentary speeches should be done in a more concise manner and we should not have speeches which are longer than 20 minutes,” Debattista said.

Speaking about the adjournament speech, Debattista also highlighted that this should be more “punchy”, saying that a different system should be adopted.

For example, he proposed that the adjournament should involve both parties, giving each party an allotted time of 15 minutes, divided among a number of MPs.

 

‘Full-time MPs would allow for more scrutiny and work to be carried out’

Beside the discussion on shorter parliamentary speeches, Debattista also suggested that MPs should be given the option of becoming full-timers, arguging that this will allow them to get more work done.

Speaking about this suggestion during the interview, Debattista said that during Parliament he did not take a position on whether this change should occur, however, he did argue that it should be seriously discussed as soon as possible.

Debattista said how in conversation with foreign delegates, they often tend to express their astonishment and disbelief how MPs in the Maltese parliament manage to do so much work despite being part-timers.

He pointed out that not long ago, the Speaker of the House also worked on a part-time basis.

“The change from part-time to full-time goes to show that we are already working on implementing this change to ensure that more work is carried out,” Debattista said.

He added that if MPs are given the option of becoming full-timers, they will be given many more changes to scrutinise. MPs would also have the possibility to scrutinse the work carried out by the European Union in a better manner by dedicating more time to understand the effects of EU laws on Malta. By doing so, MPs would also have more time to challenge EU laws as is the right of every national parliament.

“I’m not saying that the Maltese parliament is not doing this already. However, I believe that more resources are required. Thus, this discussion on whether MPs should be given the option to become full-timers is necessary,” Debattista said.

He urged for this discussion to be carried out in a way that is not hijacked by political parties only, but includes other perspectives such as those from the media and other parties, as well as perspectives from Malta and Gozo’s citizens to identify what type of electoral system and what formation of Parliaments do people want to see.

 

‘Parliamentary privilege needs to be reformed to avoid abuse’

During the interview, parliamentary privilege was discussed, as Debattista said that a discussion needs to take place to see how this is reformed in order to avoid anyone from abusing it in some way or another.

Parliamentary privilege, he said, takes away the right for a citizen to speak up when someone in Parliament obscures him or her.

“If someone in Parliament used the parliamentary privilege to obscure a citizen, I believe that that citizen has the right to have his voice heard,” Debattista said.

Meanwhile, Debattista also noted that the party financing law needs to be reviewed and fine-tuned, saying that the current situation is not sustainable in the long-run.

“Nowadays, it is very difficult to run a political party becauses the expenses that one incurs are significant. The way the party financing law is today, makes it even more difficult for a political party to operate,” he said.

 

‘Robson Rotation system creates a fair and level-playing field for everyone’

Just over a year ago, Debattista, who was back then Labour news website editor, had said that Malta should consider introducing the Robson Rotation system.

This is a system whereby different sets of ballot sheets are printed, with candidates appearing at different positions in their party list. This type of system would avoid seeing the same politicians at the top of the ballot sheet due to their surname.

Now that Debattista is a Labour MP, he presented this proposal to the Labour party saying that internal discussions on the matter are taking place.

He explained that the Robson Rotation system reaches a compromise in creating a fair system because each candidate is given the same chance to be placed at the top of the ballot sheet.

Traditionally, Debattista said that every ballot sheet in an election is identical, with the candidates’ names in the same order based on alphabetical order by surname, but through the Robson Rotation system, the positions of each candidate would vary, creating “a level-playing field for everyone”.

 

Co-option

Debattista was elected to Parliament via a co-option. He had not contested the election, but when the party came to decide on which districts were to be vacated by candidates who were elected on two, a void was left on the PL list, which was taken up by Debattista’s co-option.

Asked on whether Debattista believes that it was somewhat discriminatory that he made it to Parliament in spite of not contesting the last election, Debattista argued that it was not so because Prime Minister Robert Abela made the choice from a large group of people who all played an important role during the general election campaign.

“It would have been considered discriminatory if the coopted person was one who did not work for the party,” Debattista said.

“The campaign was operated by a large group of people who all had a different role but the same goal. Consequently, I understand and appreciate that it was not easy for the Prime Minister to nominate one person from a large group of people,” Debattista said.

He added that there were many other people who deserved to be nominated, apart from himself.

“Every co-option elicits some kind of reaction and there are some politicans who try and shed a bad light on the system of co-option, which I believe is a mistake. People should not be so quick to judge, but one should judge based on the work that is carried out by the person. I believe that a lot of work is being done within Parliament, including within the Labour government,” Debattista said.

 

 

 

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