The row over Parliamentary Services support for deaf Green MP Mojo Mathers should have been over shortly after 3.30pm yesterday. Well, truth be known, it should have been over long before that. There should never have been a row.
But after the issue flared up yesterday on newspaper websites and subsequently on social media networks, the Speaker, Lockwood Smith had a chance to make good. Instead, he stood up at his 3.30 presser and gave the impression that he thought he was the injured party.
He claimed that the Green MPs present at a meeting on the issue yesterday morning -- Gareth Hughes and Mathers herself -- had breached the confidentiality of the meeting and "politicised" it. Hughes said there had been no suggestion that the meeting was confidential -- why should it be? -- and Mathers had been clear that she would talk about the issue both to the media and in her maiden speech.
This really is not a complicated issue: Mojo Mathers must be able to do the Parliamentary job she was elected to do. It's that simple. And someone should have been working to do that the day she was declared an MP. To be fair, someone was: sorta. An appropriation had been made to provide the technical system that would allow her to participate in parliamentary debates; just not for the labour of the real-time note-takers to work the system.
The Speaker seemed to regard the view that Mathers should not have to sacrifice her MP's support budget to subsidise a Parliamentary service as the mere sentiment of ungrateful wretches. Why, he said, he had done his "level best" to provide support.
The fact that provision of the note-taking sevice would facilitate something that should have happened long ago -- closed captioning for the benefit of the hundreds of thousands of hearing-impaired New Zealanders who may wish to follow the Parliament they pay and vote for -- is a considerable benefit. But it is not, in itself, the issue.
When Mojo Mathers was declared an MP, I greeted it as a further step on the way to a Parliament that looked more like New Zealand, in its glorious variety: one day we'd have an MP who was on the autism spectrum, and out about it. That would probably require a different sort of support -- perhaps a "quiet room" adjacent to the Chamber, for use at short notice. There might be some cost, or inconvenience, in making that room available. But it would be what we would do.
On the upside, this affair has been useful. It has made us think about New Zealanders' different needs. And it has allowed us to see which New Zealanders cannot think outside their own tiny, spiteful minds.
Leighton Smith, who quibbled mindlessly on his Newstalk ZB show this morning about whether Mathers was really deaf -- because, apparently, she speaks with an inflection and proper deaf people talk in a monotone -- should be ashamed of himself. Of course, that's hardly anything new.