Hours for Mathers

Stuff reports:

Parliamentary Service was working hard to provide technology and he had asked officials to explore voice recognition software. “That technology is something we are working on right now. That doesn’t have to wait for a Parliamentary Service Commission,” he said.

Smith also accused Mathers and Green party whip Gareth Hughes of politicising the matter and making public the details of a private meeting.

So it is not a dispute over technology to help her do her job, as it appeared yesterday. That is being provided. It is a dispute over hours.

Each MP gets funding to cover 80 hours of staff time, or two full-time equivalent workers, a week.

Mojo Mathers estimates she needs 1000 hours a year for electronic note-taking required for her to participate in Parliament through a laptop on her debating chamber desk.

The Speaker has suggested the other 13 Green MPs pool their support budgets to give some of their unused support hours to Mathers.

Now I do support Mathers being given extra hours, but this can’t be done at the whim of the Speaker. All Electorate MPs gets 120 hours a week and all List MPs 80 hours a week. To give Mathers extra hours you need to set up a third category of MP, and publish a formal determination specifying the criteria to qualify, and what the extra support hours or funding will be.

It is worth noting that the Green caucus as a whole gets 56,000 hours of support staff a year, plus $1.88 million of funding. The 1,000 hours is less than 2% of their overall hours and a party that consists entirely of List MPs rarely uses all its allocated hours up.

Again, I support a change to the funding rules to cater for a situation like Mathers. But the Greens could have chosen to work with the Speaker to establish a time-table for changing the determinations, rather than do a hatchet job on him.

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