“Some people might think parliamentary questions are a waste of time. They couldn’t be more wrong,” Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli wrote in an article published by MaltaToday.
In a desperate attempt to get noticed, Farrugia Portelli endorsed the proverbial saying – any publicity is good publicity. But not for Julia, it seems.
She still hasn’t learnt her lesson from the “mechanisms” debacle during the Covid pandemic, to understand that the less is heard from her, the better for her and the country. She hasn’t realised that keeping quiet would do herself, and all of us, a service.
So off she went on a mission of self-promotion, pointing out how amazing she was and proving the exact opposite.
She said in her article: “Question time can actually be quite precious, giving us on the governing side and the opposition an opportunity to go into details which otherwise would have been lost in the hustle and bustle of daily political life”.
All that hustle and bustle, poor Julia. “A case in point was my reply this week to a sensible post-Christmas PQ on the protection of consumers”, she added.
Farrugia Portelli was desperately trying to convince us her answer to the “sensible post-Christmas” parliamentary question, whatever that is, was “quite precious”.
What gems of information did the minister disclose? The number of blue badges issued, how many applications were received that month (111), how many were new (63), how many renewals (48), and how many have already been issued (just 19).
There was more. She informed us there had been 18,000 inspections on “all kinds of shops”. Close to 200 were found to be “nonconforming to established rules”. But not a single one has faced legal action.
Only four are “risking legal action”, Farrugia Portelli added.
Happy with herself, she finished off her piece in style. “As one can see, PQs do offer precious time to us as administrators, the Opposition as participants and observers, and the public as recipient”.
What on earth does “PQs do offer precious time” even mean?
She is a member of Cabinet, for God’s sake. She brags she’s a former journalist with 20 years of experience “under her belt”. Yet she hasn’t got a clue.
She’s sure we’re gagging for her titillating titbits about the number of blue badges or inspections of “all sorts of shops”.
It just gets wackier. “ With parliamentary sessions available on both radio and TV, it makes it worthwhile to listen or watch as there will be details and more useful fodder”.
Fodder? Fodder is cattle feed. That’s the hay or straw fed to cows, or sheep.
Maybe that’s a Freudian slip, and that’s precisely what she thinks of her constituents – they’re just sheep with a herd instinct. She thinks we’ve nothing better to do than listen to or watch her posing on that top channel, Parliament TV, and spewing useless information.
“People deserve to have the facts to analyse and judge our work as we seek to honour our electoral pledges,” she declared.
The people don’t deserve the facts, they have a right to those facts. Especially the important ones – like the millions your government gave your friend Saviour Balzan who publishes your crap?
Or how many persons of trust your government lumped onto the public payroll? Or how many millions Robert Abela spent on publicity?
Of course, PQs are precious – but only if they’re answered truthfully. Since the last elections, there have been 710 unanswered PQs.
More than 300 PQs were answered with the stock reply, “the answer will be given in another session”. Of course, that session never comes.
By April 2021, 14 ministries still hadn’t replied to PQs from 2017 about how many people Labour had employed on the eve of the 2017 elections.
That’s four years, and Julia and her friends still haven’t bothered answering. The Parliamentary Standing Orders state that all PQs should be answered within three working days.
Konrad Mizzi was asked the same question about how many persons of trust he’d recruited to his ministry – four times. In 2016, that fateful year when Panama Papers struck and his secret Panama and New Zealand structures crumbled, Mizzi replied that “the requested information is still being collated” – 28 months after he was first asked the question.
The following year, when Joseph Muscat, shaken by the Egrant allegations, decided to call an early election, he left 1,700 unanswered PQs – that’s one-fourth of all questions asked.
For comparison, no question went unanswered between 2006 and 2012 – the last years of a PN administration. In Joseph Muscat’s first year in power, 456 PQs went unanswered.
Now, Robert Abela, as he promised, is the continuity candidate. He’s doing exactly what Muscat did. When asked how much money he spent on media advertising, his cunning reply was, “the question exceeded the advisory cost limit”. He decided it would cost too much to answer.
PQs, under Labour, are an utter waste of time. First, you have to get them past the gatekeeper Speaker Anġlu Farrugia.
In 2018, he ruled that MPs couldn’t ask whether Keith Schembri had attended the wedding of the chairman of Pilatus Bank because it “was not in the public interest”.
The Speaker also refused to allow a question about whether the Egrant inquiry report would be published in full, and another about who had access to the full inquiry report because “such questions were not relevant within parliament”.
If a PQ gets past the Speaker, it might wait years for an answer, and none may come. And if it comes, the answer might be “the answer will be given in another session”.
Worse still, “it will cost too much”. Or the answer will just be a blatant lie – “the AUM audit has been published”. In fact, it would take several more months and an FOI request by The Shift before that audit was published.
Julia Farrugia Portelli bragged she’s on a “constant quest for a fairer playing field”. Maybe she should embark on a ‘constant quest’ to stop embarrassing the country.
Julia Farrugia Portelli is a former employee of Saviour Balzan. That explains many things.
Possibly a plant by Joseph Muscat to have Saviour Balzan under live observation. Muscat would never thrust Balzan. Balzan of course will dance to his Paymaster Tune. But that came later, with direct orders to Balzan and friends.
Is no one going to congratulate Kevin Cassar on a superbly researched and beautifully-articulated article?