The Green Party should look at other options to help fund a parliamentary note-taker for deaf MP Mojo Mathers, says Speaker Lockwood Smith.
The party said today Smith declined its request for Parliamentary Services to provide extra funding needed for Mathers to follow the House's debates and proceedings.
The Greens said they were told they would have to pay the estimated $20,000 to $30,000 a year out of its own budget for support staff to sit in and type up notes for Mathers in the House.
But Smith said tonight the Greens have other alternatives.
He said members of Parliament receive a support allowance for about 80 hours a week to help with their campaign and constituency work.
Not all MPs need the same support as others and traditional practice is that parties share their allocated 80 hours.
"And so members give support hours within their party to other members who have greater need for support," Smith told TV ONE's Close Up.
"We should do that first before we go to the taxpayer for more money."
Smith said Parliamentary Services has put a lot of resources into finding the appropriate technological equipment for Mathers to be able to participate in the House.
He said he was even looking having software rewritten to make the House computers more compatible with the note-taking technology.
He said he will discuss extra funding with the Parliamentary Services Committee next month, and if it is approved, he will ask the Government for more funding.
"I can't under the law simply say forget about that, we'll just put a bit of money in from here or there," Smith said.
Mathers, who entered Parliament after November's election as New Zealand's first profoundly deaf MP, says the decision is discriminatory.
"No other Member of Parliament is expected to fund their participation in the debating chamber," she told Close Up.
Mathers said she was told her case is not comparable to the services Parliament pays for around translation of Maori proceedings in the House.
She said it sets a dangerous precedent for disability issues across the country.
"It would mean that every elected MP with a disability or a hearing impairment would then expect to be funded for their participation in the House by their party," Mathers said.
"It would act as a huge disincentive to run disabled candidates highly on their list and that's just not on."
Mathers said the Green Party should not have to use its members' allowances to help her.
"That money for the note-taking should not be coming out of that support budget because that is what every Member of Parliament has in order to do their work outside of the House."
Prime Minister John Key said everyone has an equal right to be able to communicate and do their job properly.
"We'd certainly have a look at that bid," Key said.
The decision outraged the deaf community.
"It is clearly a breach on so many levels, not only on the United Nations Charter on the Rights of People with Disabilities, but also I find it offensive as a kiwi," said Louise Carroll, chief executive officer of The National Foundation for the Deaf.
Sign-language interpreters will translate Mathers' first speech in the House tomorrow.
Sign language is New Zealand's third official language.
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