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Deaf MP makes history with translated speech

Published: 5:36AM Wednesday February 15, 2012 Source: ONE News

Green MP Mojo Mathers made history in Parliament today after her maiden speech was translated live into New Zealand sign language.

Thirteen other Green MPs also had their speeches translated in honour of Mathers as the first deaf person in Parliament.

The move comes off the back of claims that Parliamentary Services are discriminating against the Green Party MP by refusing to pay the $30,000 needed for an in-House electronic note taker.

In her speech, Mathers highlighted how she had no concept of the difficulties that lay ahead of her as a deaf MP.

"I just wanted to speak out in defence of our water and our environment and be heard."

Mathers noted the issue of funding, saying while the electronic notetakers do an excellent job, it is not reliable enough for her to do the job she was elected to do.

"I made the point yesterday that funding for electronic notetakers and equipment 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 the House in this way."

Mathers compared this to the $1 million spent a few years ago on upgrading the audio system in the chamber so MPs could hear better.

House Speaker Lockwood Smith has accused the Green Party of politicising the issue and attributes this to the party's inexperience.

However, Smith has agreed to discuss extra funding with the Parliamentary Services Commission next month.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman told Smith the party would continue to go public with the issue.

"If he wishes to resolve the issue quickly then I would invite him to bring the meeting forward."

Labour disabilities spokesperson Clare Curran said the debate highlights the wider issues for the hearing impaired community.

"Being deaf should not be a barrier to participation in our democracy as a Member if Parliament, nor should it be a barrier to following parliamentary discussion and debate."

Mathers also called for Parliament TV to be captioned so all New Zealanders have full access to political debate.