Greens call for faster solution for deaf MP

By Amelia Romanos

Green MP Mojo Mathers, who is deaf, has been told her office will need to pay for the technology she needs to speak in Parliament. Photo / Supplied
Green MP Mojo Mathers, who is deaf, has been told her office will need to pay for the technology she needs to speak in Parliament. Photo / Supplied

The Green Party has called for quicker action to sort out a dispute over special funding for its deaf MP, Mojo Mathers.

A row between the party and Speaker Lockwood Smith erupted yesterday after Dr Smith told Ms Mathers Parliamentary Services would not fund a note-taker for her, and she would have to meet the extra cost of about $30,000 out of her own support budget.

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 properly.

Co-leader Metiria Turei yesterday said forcing Ms Mathers to fund the service herself set a dangerous precedent for how all disabled people were treated, and the move amounted to discrimination.

Dr Smith defended his actions, saying that while Parliamentary Service could fund technological support, the note-taker was a staff cost and he did not have the authority to approve it.

The issue is on the agenda for the next Parliamentary Services Commission meeting next month, but in a statement today the Greens said that was not soon enough.

"The meeting is set down for March 7, and we think the issue needs to be resolved prior to that,'' the party said.

In a letter to the Speaker, Mrs Turei requested that he convene a meeting with the commission as soon as possible.

The party also reiterated that it did not believe funding needed to come from the individual member's support budget, and could instead come from the budget for Office of the Clerk, which included allocations for `Secretariat Services for the House of Representatives'.

The cost of the note-taker was about 0.17 per cent of that budget, the Greens said.

- APNZ

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