Much discussion this morning about the MP with the coolest name in Parliament, Mojo Mathers, and whether you or I should pay for an electronic note-taking system so the new Green MP can do her job.
She’s deaf, you see, and can’t do the job properly without one. It will cost us around $30,000, apparently—about the size of Bellamy’s bar bill on a slow afternoon.
So fair enough, surely. It’s a small enough sum; it can be taken out of the existing Parliamentary Budget without any problems; and this is supposed to be a representative democracy, surely, and when folk from all walks of life are in Parliament their democracy should provide whatever’s need to do their job, no?
No. Not really. Not exactly.
Because Speaker Lockwood Smith is reportedly examining whether to impose a new obligation on taxpayers, rather than spending less elsewhere. Like subsiding Bellamy’s, for instance. (Bad Lockwood.)
And yes, it’s a small sum. But even a small sum has to be authorised; has to be taken from someone. And there is nothing in law to justify a new imposition like this. (Laws about subsidising the trough at Bellamy’s on the other hand…)
And fundamentally, small though the sum involved is, the argument about spending it goes back to the nature of government and of parliament ,and and what they’re there for.
Government’s job is not to raise the self-esteem of its participants—its job is to protect individual rights. That’s their only justifiable job.
So Parliament’s job, in this sense, is not simply to be a club wherein participants are made to feel better about themselves. It’s not a place where you go to raise your self-esteem. It is instead an arm of government (at least in principle if not in practice) that helps keep the other arms somewhat in check—to ensure they are protecting individual rights.
And frankly, then as long as taxpayers continue to vote people in to do that job (at least in theory) it doesn’t matter whether you’re deaf, dumb, blind or transgender. If you’ve been voted in to do the job by taxpayers (and even some Green voters do pay taxes) then you should have the tools to do that job.
After all, there’s extra reinforcing needed for Parekura Horomia’s seat. And we’re obliged to pay for that, aren’t we?
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* Paid for by those taxpayers who voted for them, ideally.