Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:
Speaker Lockwood Smith has told deaf MP Mojo Mathers she must pay for the $30,000 technology to speak in Parliament out of her own budget.
Green MP Mathers made history when she became New Zealand’s first profoundly deaf MP in November.
She will give her maiden speech in the House tomorrow, which will be translated by sign-language interpreters.
But Smith has told the Green Party that Parliamentary Services will not pay for the electronic note-taking equipment which Mathers needs to take part in debates.
This has already caused outrage on Twitter. My stance is that I think Parliamentary Service should fund the note-taking equipment if it is essential to allow Mathers to participate in the House.
However I note that so far only one side of the issue has been reported. We do not know what the reasoning is behind this decision – just what the Greens have said is the reason. It would be helpful for the Parliamentary Service to explain the decision.
Finally i would also point out that there is no question of Mathers personally paying for the note-taking equipment. In fact the taxpayers, through Parliamentary Service, will be paying either way. The Greens receive a total of $5.64m funding over this parliamentary term to support their MPs, so this represents around 0.5% of their funding over the next three years.
However if the equipment is funded from the Greens allocation, then they can’t spend that money on other things such as staff, research, advertising. And they have a quite legitimate view that having an MP with a disability shouldn’t cost them a portion of their budget.
UPDATE: The Herald reports further info:
However, the Speaker’s office said Dr Smith and Parliamentary Services did not have the authority to approve the extra funding.
“He would have to go to the Parliamentary Service Commission, he’d have to go to the Government and ask for additional funding to do what she wants because its not part of the appropriation,” a spokeswoman said.
Dr Smith would raise the issue at next month’s Parliamentary Service Commission meeting.
The Speaker is holding a press conference at 3.30 pm also on this issue.