16 Feb 2012

Deaf MP criticises lack of support

4:33 am on 16 February 2012

Deaf Green MP Mojo Mathers used her maiden speech to Parliament to criticise the lack of support for her in the debating chamber.

Ms Mathers said funding for electronic notetakeers, so that she can follow parliamentary debates, should not come out of her support budget.

She said no MP with a disability should be expected to fund their participation in Parliament in this way.

Ms Mathers also called for captioning on parliamentary television so all people with a hearing impairment can have full access to the political debate.

Greens wait on Speaker

The Green Party is waiting to hear whether Speaker Lockwood Smith will call an early meeting of the Parliamentary Service Commission to sort out support services for Ms Mathers.

Earlier it said it is taking legal advice on challenging the view of Parliament's Speaker that he cannot legally approve extra money for Ms Mathers.

Co-leader Metiria Turei wrote to Lockwood Smith asking him to call a meeting of the Parliamentary Services Commission as soon as possible.

The cost of employing note-takers to help Ms Mathers understand what is being said in Parliament, is estimated at $30,000.

Dr Smith says legally he cannot approve that kind of spending, but the Green Party believes he can and is seeking advice.

The Speaker says he intends taking the matter up with the Parliamentary Services Commission when it next meets on 7 March.

But Ms Turei wants that meeting to be held much earlier.

Deaf MP unwilling to dip into support-staff funding

Deaf MP Mojo Mathers says she should not have to dip into her support-staff funding to pay for notetakers to help her in Parliament.

It is estimated it would cost $30,000 per year to fund two notetakers for the newly Green Party MP, enabling her to understand what is being said.

Speaker Lockwood Smith says Parliamentary Services can pay for technology to support her in the House, but money for support staff is already allocated to political parties, and he cannot approve extra funding.

Ms Mathers, who is to give her maiden speech to Parliament on Wednesday, told Morning Report that would set a dangerous precedent.

Foundation for the Deaf chief executive Louise Carroll says extra funding should be allocated to allow Ms Mathers to operate at the same functional level as her colleagues.

And Paul Gibson, who handles disability rights matters for the Human Rights Commission says it is not clear whether Parliament is fulfilling its moral duty to ensure MPs can participate in the House and do their duties.

He told Morning Report that Parliament needs to make a genuine effort to sort out the issue.