New Zealand parliament’s first deaf MP has used her maiden speech to criticise the speaker’s attitude to the aids she needs to properly understand debates.
Lockwood Smith told Green Party MP Mojo Mathers that parliament can’t pay the $NZ30,000 ($A23,532) a year she needs for electronic note-takers and she’ll have to use her own staff budget.
“A few years ago parliament spent nearly $1 million upgrading the audio system in the chamber so MPs could hear better,” she said in her maiden speech on Wednesday.
“I’m making the point that funding for electronic note-takers should not be coming out of my support budget, which all members receive, because no MP with a disability should be expected to fund their participation in this way.”
Ms Mathers, who has been deaf since birth, has a small TV screen on her desk so she can lip read, but says electronic note-takers, who would repeat what MPs say into voice recognition software, will help her follow debates and speeches.
The parliamentary service is providing the technology but Dr Smith says he is legally unable to reallocate funds from parliament’s existing budget appropriations to pay for note-taking staff.
The Green Party is taking legal advice on whether Dr Smith’s interpretation of the rules is correct.
It believes parliament’s budget for secretariat services, which includes Maori translation services, should pay for the note-taking staff.
Party co-leader Metiria Turei has asked Dr Smith to urgently convene the parliamentary services committee to resolve the issue, ahead of its scheduled meeting on March 7.