Mikl-Leitner fends off Prammer attack

People’s Party (ÖVP) Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner has defended the plan to finalise the talks for the government’s transparency package this year.

Mikl-Leitner underlined today (Fri) that the various planned draft bills would come into force only next year anyway. She promised that her cabinet and the team of negotiators assigned by the Social Democrats (SPÖ) would carry out the reforms for more direct democracy carefully.

The interior minister was pressed to make a statement after Barbara Prammer warned from doing a rushed job. Prammer, the president of the parliament, told newspaper Die Presse earlier this week she feared that the amendments would be “sloppy jobs” if the government coalition focuses on speed in debating the issue.

Prammer said everyone should be satisfied if possible changes to the existing regulations come into effect ahead of the next federal election. The ballot is scheduled for autumn 2013. “The needed referendum could be held simultaneously to the election,” Prammer suggested.

The parliament speaker also warned from letting voters decide about changes to human rights, civil rights and liberties in possibly upcoming referendums. SPÖ and ÖVP want to lower the bureaucratic burdens for initiators of referendums. Speaking to Die Presse, Prammer said European Union (EU) laws must not be put into question in nationwide referendums either, with amendments as an exception.

Prammer criticised the ÖVP regarding the idea to let voters decide whether tax money goes. Sebastian Kurz, who heads the ÖVP’s youth organisation, said 10 per cent of tax revenues should go where people want it to. He claimed such a reform could improve the reputation of Austria’s politicians. Prammer said she was not in favour of the idea since it was possible that social spending decreased as a consequence.

Werner Kogler of the Green Party criticised Kurz over the appeal as well. Kogler branded the idea as “first class populism”. He said poor people would not be able to participate in any way since they were not paying any income tax while Prammer expressed concerns of an increase of subsidies for the economy if the Kurz concept becomes reality.

Mikl-Leitner said today the SPÖ-ÖVP government had no intentions of allowing voters to decide about changes to basic, freedom and minority rights in referendums after the envisaged reform. The coalition’s offensive for more direct democracy comes shortly after Heinz-Christian Strache of the increasingly popular Freedom Party (FPÖ) made such demands.

The party the Eurosceptic – who claims that Austria might be better off outside the Eurozone – leads since 2005 could overtake both government factions in next year’s election, according to surveys. Fifty-one per cent of Austrians hope that SPÖ and ÖVP do not cooperate again after next year’s ballot.

Polls also show that just 22 per cent are satisfied with Mikl-Leitner’s achievements since she was sworn in as interior minister in May 2011. At 43 per cent, Kurz has significantly higher approval rates.