As has been established, our two-party system is vulnerable to corruption. It has been established for longer that it is exposed to the whims of loud lobbies. Each party needs to secure the support of at least half the voting population. That’s a lot of differing views. It gets ugly.
Consider Robert Abela’s appalling conduct when facing the pressure of developers. When their greed and “very dangerous activity” killed one victim too many – Miriam Pace – the government commissioned a report to assess the problem. Remember these deaths did not occur in an unregulated environment. It’s not like we didn’t have laws to keep people safe when next door someone digs an enormous hole in the ground. The State just failed to make good enough laws and to enforce the ones we did have.
The report the government commissioned listed those failures. It’s a horrific read. That quote – “very dangerous activity” – is from the experts’ report and it represents just why we need to be worried.
The government knows that people who are worried would exert pressure on it, the government, to make changes. This is not about people who are habitually unsupportive of the government, all those detractors the government collectively brands as ‘nazzjonalisti’ and happily ignores. Labour’s own support base includes many people who live next door to precarious building sites and all of them live somewhere where one day, someday, someone might decide to start digging deep. If they knew what danger they’re in, they’d be speaking to their local MP, demanding change and expecting authorities to take responsibility.
Robert Abela sought to hide the findings in the report from them, from his supporters. He’s had the report since last September. It’s so bad that any responsible person would have ordered a national freeze on major construction until the laws are changed and the procedures recommended by the experts are brought into law. You don’t want to read that report within hearing of a jigger. And Robert Abela doesn’t want you to, either. After all, now that he’s been told black on white just how dangerous things are, he will not be able to shed the responsibility for the next victim to lose their home or their life.
What stops him dealing properly with the problem? The lobby concerned. Any government is obliged to listen to stakeholders before deciding. But which lobby’s voice is going to ring louder in Robert Abela’s ears? Is it the voice of anyone who may or may never find that someday someone decided to dig a big hole next to their house, or the people doing the digging as a matter of course?
If it were up to Robert Abela, we’d never have seen the contents of the report he got. It wasn’t a Damascene experience that got him to publish it yesterday. He realised the report was the subject of a freedom of information request by Repubblika and he read in the newspaper that if he had the temerity to reject the request, Repubblika intended to contest that rejection. It was not a fight he was going to win.
He benefited nothing politically from the secrecy. And he still has the guys in the excavators to face.
Speaking of who is going to call whom when political parties decide their policy priorities. Bernard Grech has freshly emerged from a timid shakeup of his parliamentary group. The fact that Adrian Delia stayed out of the shadow cabinet is not exactly a development. He’s as useless as he’s ever been. Few changes were made otherwise. One of the few was in the environment sector. He replaced spokesmen and hired someone with the specific responsibility of speaking for the hunting and trapping sector, presumably because he must think the random shooting of birds is a matter demanding policy focus.
It is customary to try to analyse these decisions to understand what a new party leader has chosen as a policy priority. But Bernard Grech did not wait for any speculation. His first meeting after he completed the rejigging of his team was with the hunter’s lobby. He spoke of them in effusive terms describing their antediluvian habit of decimating animals they will not eat as a form of attachment to nature. It’s a bit like admiring a rapist’s taste in women.
Bernard Grech is not going to get calls from the birds. But he needs his church to be broad. If he flatters the hunters, he should realise he’d be stepping away from the rest of us who simply cannot resolve blood sport with what we expect from our politicians: rational choices, a commitment to the environment, priority of the common good over any segment’s very particular fetishes, and just old-fashioned common sense.
As political parties chase the louder pockets of support, we’re left with deadly holes in the ground where migratory birds can drop for longer to their plummeting deaths and one church ever so slightly broader than the other.