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