Pay for live closed captioning of Question Time debates in the Parliament.
  • Petitioned New Zealand Government

This petition was delivered to:

New Zealand Government
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Lockwood Smith
Minister for Disability Services
Tariana Turia

Pay for live closed captioning of Question Time debates in the Parliament.

    1. Merrin Macleod
    2. Petition by

      Merrin Macleod

      wellington, New Zealand

March 2012


Just this morning, Speaker Lockwood Smith announced he's directed Parliamentary Services, which funds support for all MPs to do their jobs, to provide the legal authority to fund electronic note-takers for Mojo Mathers.

It's an extraordinary victory for student Merrin Macleod, who started the petition, as well as the over 6,000 people who joined her.

It was an uphill battle to get there. The Speaker was intially reluctant to fund the note-taking, saying that the funds should come from Mojo Mathers' own budget. 

Merrin was outraged that New Zealand's first deaf MP wasn't being provided the basic support she needed to do her job -- essentially being asked to pay to participate in Parliament. So she started a petition and contacted everyone she could think of to spread the word.

The campaign took off quickly, with thousands of signatures driving coverage in some of New Zealand's biggest media outlets, including the New Zealand Herald. Then, last week, the petition was tabled in Parliament -- in front of MPs, the media, and Speaker Lockwood Smith himself. 

The pressure worked. Thanks to Merrin's petition and the thousands who supported it, an important step has been made to pave the way for equal access in New Zealand's highest political institutions. 

Mojo Mathers, New Zealand's first Deaf MP, is being forced to use her own personnel allowance to pay for the live closed captioning of Question Time debates [1].

Not only is this a prerequisite for her participation in the debate - an essential part of her job - but live closed captioning of Question Time debates in Parliament would also benefit thousands of hearing impaired New Zealanders who are kept from participating in democracy in this important way.

The New Zealand Parliament has an obligation to make debates accessible to the people it represents and the representatives who serve them. This is one of the oldest traditions of the Westminster system. It is ridiculous that Question Time is only available live to people who can comprehend spoken English, one of New Zealand's three official languages.

There are 9,000 people in New Zealand who are culturally Deaf and use New Zealand Sign Language as a primary language [2]. New Zealand Sign Language is New Zealand's third official language, Maori being second. There are thousands more people who have hearing impairments that prohibit them from understanding Question Time as it happens. The costs of a live captioner should therefore be borne by Parliamentary Services in the interests of public accessibility. 

Lockwood Smith, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, says he's unable to authorise staffing hours for the captioning service, although the technology has been provided [3]. Parliamentary Services should consider the fact that closed captioning service for Question Time would benefit thousands of New Zealanders. This is a simple issue of access and rights. 

Please help ensure that our democracy is accessible for ALL -- sign the petition now. 





Recent signatures


    1. Reached 6,000 signatures
    2. Petition to be tabled in Parliament

      Merrin Macleod
      Petition Organizer

      It is expected that Clare Curran, the Labour Spokesperson for Disability Services, Broadcasting and Open Government, will table the petition calling for live captioning of Parliamentary proceedings today. This issue comes under all three of those portfolios; Mojo Mathers being able to serve effectively in Parliament is an important disability services issue, New Zealand's need for improved captioning is a broadcasting issue, and the accessibility of Parliamentary proceedings to all New Zealanders is critical for open governance.

      This is great news for everyone who has made their voice heard on this issue. However, the tabling of the petition in Parliament is only one avenue through which Lockwood Smith, the Speaker, will hear the call. We should continue discussing this issue, sharing this petition, and putting pressure on the Government to fund live captions of Parliamentary procedures for Mojo Mathers and all New Zealanders.

    3. Reached 5,000 signatures
    4. Support for Mojo Mathers and the wider Deaf and hearing-impaired community

      Merrin Macleod
      Petition Organizer

      Paul Gibson, the Disability Rights Commissioner, has called for the Speaker Lockwood Smith and Parliamentary Services to accommodate Mojo Mathers' need for live electronic notetaking. Article 21 and 29 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which New Zealand has ratified, specifically deal with the right of persons with disabilities to access information intended for the public in a timely manner without additional cost, and the right to serve effectively in public life.

      Many other figures and organisations have come out in support of Mojo Mathers.

      The Human Rights Commission currently has a discussion paper out for consultation called The Wider Journey, which deals with accessibility issues for disabled people in the physical environment, in accessing information, and in the political process. If you have experience with disability, hearing-related or otherwise, I recommend you make a submission to this report detailing obstacles in the political process.

    5. Reached 250 signatures


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