Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Lockwood Smith's excuse for his outrageous refusal to ensure that Mojo Mathers is enabled to perform her constitutional duties as an MP? "Its not within the appropriation", and he needs the permission of the Parliamentary Services Commission to approve it. Both of these excuses are pure bullshit.

The detailed appropriation for the Office of the Clerk - the body responsible for providing secretarial services to the House, Hansard, and in-House translation services - is here [PDF]. The relevant appropriation is "Secretariat Services for the House of Representatives", and its scope is defined as:

This appropriation is limited to the provision to the House of Representatives of professional advice and services designed to assist the House in the fulfilment of its constitutional functions, and enabling participation in, and understanding of, parliamentary proceedings.
(Emphasis added).

Making sure that a deaf MP can participate fully and fulfil her constitutional duties would seem to be covered by that. Maori MPs are - the official interpreter is funded out of that appropriation.

So what about the Parliamentary Services Commission? That's to advice the Speaker on the provision of services to Members (such as communications services, offices, that sort of thing) under the Parliamentary Services Act. But this isn't a private service to an MP, its a public service to our country, and required by law. But even if you accept that this is a private service, it still doesn't wash - because a) the Parliamentary Services Commission currently consists of only three people (the Leader of the House, Leader of the Opposition, and the Speaker himself); and b) they've known about this problem for three months. If Lockwood couldn't organise a meeting of only three people in that time to sort this out, then it is his priorities at fault, not "bureaucracy".

Finally, there's the obvious counterfactual: would this be happening if Mathers was a National MP? And I think we all know that the answer would be "no". If it was one of his colleagues, Smith would have prioritised handling it and ensured there was a solution in place to ensure participation on the first day (and issued a press release crowing about Parliament's new accessibility). But because she's a Green, its just not a priority. The fault is entirely Lockwood's, and he deserves every bit of stick he is getting for it.