Deaf MP wants funding row sorted

Deaf Green MP Mojo Mathers says she hopes the row over who should fund her parliamentary note-taker will be resolved as quickly as possible.

Speaker Lockwood Smith has refused special funding for Ms Mathers's note-taker and has told her the money would have to come from her MP support budget or from her party.

The note-taker provides Ms Mathers with an instant transcript of what is being said in the House, and the MP said without it she could not participate in Parliament.

The cost of the person to take notes was estimated to be $20,000-$30,000 a year.

Ms Mathers, who is due to give her maiden speech in Parliament today, said she hoped the funding would get sorted "as quickly as possible''.

"The longer it goes on the more support budget is being tied up with the note-takers, and they've already had two months to address this issue,'' she told Newstalk ZB this morning.

"The decision that funding should come out of my personal support is not fair or credible. No other Member of Parliament has to fund their own participation in the House and it's a breach of our commitment towards fair representation and participation in the political debate by the disabled community.

"We made that commitment as a country when we signed the United Nations convention on the rights of disabled people, and we need to uphold that.''

Asked if she was worried about being stereotyped over the issue, Ms Mathers said she understood the importance of the fact she was breaking down barriers.

"This is an important step for the hearing impaired and the wider disabled community, because hopefully in future when other disabled or hearing impaired members enter Parliament, they will not face these same barriers that I am at the moment.''

Ms Mathers said her maiden speech today would cover her journey into politics, learning to reclaim her identity as a deaf person as part of her political journey, and the need for captioning of Parliament television.

At a press conference yesterday, Dr Smith said the Parliamentary Service had put a lot of work into providing Ms Mathers with the technical equipment necessary to help her fulfil her role.

"She's been provided with rather different technical gear, with laptops that employ software to provide for note-takers to provide as near as possible to real time presentation of what is going on.''

Dr Smith said while Parliamentary Service paid for the technological support, the actual note-taker was a staffing cost, and he did not have the authority to approve such funding.

"Staff time like that, or support like that, is not something I can just ask the Parliamentary Service to provide,'' he said.

"Support for Members of Parliament is something that's spelt out in the Speaker's directions, it's separately appropriated by Parliament. I can't, under the law, simply say `oh, forget about that, we'll put a bit of money in from here or there', it's something I have to consult on.''

Dr Smith said the issue was on the agenda for next month's Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) meeting, and he would take advice there.

He said he hoped a solution could be found between MPs, rather than turning to the taxpayer for more money.

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