Dunkley tells PLP Senators Govt must not miss opportunities with new initiatives
One Bermuda Alliance Senate leader Michael Dunkley has challenged Government to act on its pledges rather than “letting them fall off the radar”.
Senator Dunkley said although there were “a number of good initiatives” included in this year’s Throne Speech, there was also “a lot of fluff”.
In a speech that lasted about an hour Sen Dunkley hit out at several programmes that he said were “really not actionable”.
He said he was “trying to be diplomatic for the newcomers” to the Senate but suggested some initiatives may have only been mentioned because of the impending election.
Sen Dunkley said: “Some things in the Throne Speech sound good, but how are they going to work out or will things just drop off the radar?”
Sen Dunkley said it was important for Government to keep to its word as the Country had already seen “a number of different policies falling by the wayside”.
He urged Government to “please put a framework in place” to guarantee the success of work programmes such as Job Corps. He said the Hustle Truck had been a well-supported initiative, which had later run low on funding. Sen Dunkley said: “We’d hate to see that happening again. You can’t give people opportunity and hope, then take that opportunity and hope away from them”.
Sen Dunkley highlighted the vague wording of carrying out a land policy review, adding that he hoped the review “doesn’t take too long” and he looked forward to hearing the outcome. Sen Dunkley said: “We know there could be an election not too far down the road. This review could just be to get us to that election.”
Sen Dunkley also said he wanted to hear the “meat and potatoes” of the National Infrastructure Strategy and said he was tired of education talk as “action was needed”.
He said the Throne Speech line about a referendum on gaming was carefully worded as “an option to consider”. He said: “That’s fluff to me, that’s electioneering. Let’s get on and do it, tourism is very important”.
Sen Dunkley said the “wheels were moving too slowly” with the Price Control Commission. He said it was set up four months ago so it would be “nice for the people to have an update on who’ve they’ve met and what they are hearing”.
Sen Dunkley touched on the national debt, Bermudians being underemployed or unemployed, people’s fear of crime and the high numbers of vagrants.
He said: “The Island is still headed in the wrong direction … We are worse off today than the same time last year. An election can be called to get it over with or we can deal with a lot of the fluff. The time for political talk and empty promises is over. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
Sen Dunkley said it was also important for him to show some support for the Throne Speech to “dispel the myth that all we do is criticise”.
He said the OBA approved of the Contributory Pensions Act, reforms to upfront medical payments and the CeaseFire programme. Elder abuse legislation was “very important as we’re all living longer”, he added.
Sen Dunkley said his party supported the CISCO Academy, but it needed to happen quickly as “time waits for no one”. He also said shared parenting was long overdue because of the breakdown of families and marriages. Sen Dunkley also took the opportunity to say he supported Government’s review of the Bermuda Regiment saying conscription was “past its sell by date”. He added that he had a “great deal of sympathy” for members of Bermudians Against the Draft.
But Government Senator Jonathan Smith, who spoke after Sen Dunkley, said he had to “chuckle a bit” when he heard the criticism that it was an election Throne Speech.
He highlighted that people had been “very impressed” with the initiatives and said the legislative agenda had gained “universal accolades around the table”.
Sen Smith then went into detail how the Throne Speech Reply had missed several key issues even though “they had two extra weeks to prepare their position”.
He said the OBA had failed to mention the Police Complaints Authority, the Proceeds of Crime Act, the Inter-Agency Task Force or anything about drugs.
Sen Smith said the Reply could have been their time to shine but “no one knows where they stand”.
He said: “This is meant to be a reply. There’s 7,300 words but they just seem to dance around or forget things.
“Government has its finger on the pulse but they seem to have left out some of the critical burning issues … not a stitch, not a word, not a mention.
“Is it really a reply or is it a ‘we want to do our own thing?’”
As Sen Smith spoke he waved around the Throne Speech in one hand and the Throne Speech Reply in the other. He reiterated, “this one is only the reply” and later said “this document does not take it to the level it needs to be at”.
He also criticised the Throne Speech Reply for its “clever use of language” and “assumption that the OBA will take power”.
He said to the Opposition party: “A tough government tackles tough issues, are these things too tough for you to tackle?”
Sen Smith added that Government was continuing to do more with less and was “seeing results”.