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Taxpayers' Union did not target deaf Green MP

The Taxpayers' Union criticised Mojo Mathers for spending money on a trip in order to be interviewed face-to-face. A social media storm followed, with many accusing the lobby group of a low rent tactics in targetting the deaf Green MP. "Good to see the Taxpayers Union go after the big fish first. Take Mojo Mathers and her $500 disability-related trip down!" read a typical tweet.

Below, Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams responds. - Editor

GUEST COMMENT

This morning there has been some criticism of my comments in a story on the Herald website about a trip Mojo Mathers took to Masterton from Christchurch apparently just for a short interview on a community radio station.

Despite the accusations on Twitter, let me be very clear about a few points:

  • The Taxpayers' Union did not seek media attention on this story. There is no associated press release. The Herald called yesterday evening asking for comment, as happens often.
     
  • The Taxpayers' Union operates 24 hour media line for comment on taxpayer issues. Yesterday's call came through to me and I was asked whether it was value for money for an MP to fly 800km for a radio interview on a small community station. I said it was not value for money when the interview could have been done via a Skype video chat, as well as the comments that are quoted in the story.
     
  • I've made no comment about Ms Mathers disability. In fact, if the travel was necessary I would not criticise the spending. But answering questions posed by the Herald, on matter which as far as I know are completely unrelated to her disability, is legitimate.
     
  • Accusations that I (or the Union) sought to go after Mathers are ridiculous. To repeat, we were asked for comment by the Herald who were running the story. The comments would have been the same whoever the MP.
     
  • Accusations that the Taxpayers' Union are partisan are also silly. I am proud that the Union has gone after National MPs and the current government for expenses, wasteful expenditure and corporate welfare. See info.scoop.co.nz/New_Zealand_Taxpayers'_Union


On reflection, I wonder why an MP from a party that prides itself for having a low environmental footprint choose to fly to a radio interview that could have been done on Skype.

Perhaps Ms Mathers had other engagements in Masterton. If so, that was not the information provided to me at the time by the Herald reporter.

Solicitor Jordan Williams is exectutive director of the Taxpayers' Union.

Comments and questions
26

The taxpayers union was quite right to question the appropriateness of Ms Mathers trip. It was unnecessary, and a waste of time and money. The fact that she may be deaf is irrelevant. If she can give a radio interview in a studio, she could give one by skype.

To those of you who do not have family members or friends who are deaf they can not use skype as the sound quality is poor and if the person on the other end does not use sign language and talks quickly a deaf person can miss out on key words.

Simple as that.
Mother of a deaf son and a deaf brother.

If someone is talking to a deaf person in person (as opposed to on Skype) and they talk quickly without sign language does the deaf person still miss out on key words?

The deaf also have a telephone and phone system now where someone transcribes the callers words instantly to them giving the conversation in writing also - so a mostly deaf person can actually use the telephone.

Blatant hypocrisy by the Greens again!

Besides, how many other "deaf" people will be listening to a Masterton based, community radio station?

One gets sick of the playing of the disability card....."Oh how heartless" I can hear the cries starting already!
The taxpayers' union is quite right to query the legitimacy of this trip.
The reason advanced is unconvincing and shallow,and just because the person involved is disabled,does not give her a "carte blanch" to spend our money.
paleo martin

It p****s me off when people are like "disabled people want to be treated the same as everyone else" and so when someone DOES criticise them like anyone else, it's like OMG these people are heartless...

It doesnt really matter what polictical party she is in they all waste taxpayers money for what?so silly people can be told what to do and where to work and what toilet paper to wipe there bums on .who needs any of them?

I think it is a great pity that the Taxpayers Union didn''t research all the facts before making their inane comments; they don't come out of this in a very good light.

There is a question as to whether it was worth the time and money regardless of who did it. If she were being interviewed on Newstalk ZB or a station with a large audience then a few hundred bucks in order to promote her message wouldn't be questioned. But for a station with an audience that can be measured on the various digits of the people working there at the time then there is definitely a legitimate question as to whether it is a valuable use of taxpayers' money.

She was interviewed on a programme that's specifically targeted at talking about disability, by a guy in a wheelchair, and she was making a big deal about encouraging people with disabilities to not give up and aim to succeed (or "contribute to the economy", if people must see it that way).

It's not as if community radio has no audience. It has a different audience. The station lists 26 sponsors, and nobody sponsors a station which doesn't get listened to.

This barely cost anything on the scale of MPs flying to obscure small town meetings to campaign and scream "vote for me", yet it was actually something useful for an MP to do. Spending on the order of $500 to assist an MP with a disability to actually do her job sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

I agree that alot of politicians waste taxpayers money. Why doesnt she have the right though to travel to Masterton or Huntly even to speak to people. Disabled people are everywhere. Not just in the main centres of New Zealand and the funding given by the government to disabled people especially the deaf in our case is so so little. $500 is not huge money if you think about taking a business trip there yourself..meals etc.
I travel for work and know its not cheap.

I agree with Tom. Research all the facts. Although he is saying he is not attacking her disability.
I challenge Jordan Williams to take on my 18 year old son for work experience for a day. No interpreter.
Or he could possibly skype my son and see just how difficult it really is.

"On reflection, I wonder why an MP from a party that prides itself for having a low environmental footprint choose to fly to a radio interview that could have been done on Skype."

Gosh - and there I was, thinking that the Taxpayers' Union was "not a political party, or aligned to any." Because it sure sounds like you're still running attack lines for ACT!

But no - you are right. I'm sure the only reason that Ms Mathers would rather spend her Friday traveling to that delightful tourist mecca Masterton and back to do a face-to-face interview, rather than sit in the comfort of her own home and do it over the internet is ... what, exactly? Maybe it's because Skype is a very unreliable way to communicate when you rely on a very clear picture of what the lips of the person you are speaking with are doing, so that if the picture freezes even a little it makes the whole exercise pointless? Could THAT be it?

Oh - and while we're on "wasteful travel" ... what's the Taxpayers' Union view on John Key heading down to Queenstown to get a photo-op at the NZ Open?

John Key doesn't campaign on the evils of climate change and how we all must stop using petroleum, especially stop flying and take the train instead. But, as in all things, its simply ok when the left does it. Nothing to see here, move along.

I agree that Key did nothing wrong in going to Queenstown, just as Mathers did nothing wrong in going to Masterton. But the lack of interest that the Taxpayers' Union shows in Key's (much more expensive and (on the face of it) fun) trip as opposed to Mathers' is … interesting.

And it's fine for political parties that oppose the Greens to make claims about their lack of consistency. But Jordan Williams purports to represent a "non-partisan" organisation that is solely concerned with opposing Government waste. So what concern is it of his whether the Greens are "climate hypocrites"? Or, does his closing comment not only reveal deep ignorance of the challenges facing the deaf community, but also his true political stripes?

I report, you decide.

Ms Mathers is a list MP but in reality she represents disabled people throughout New Zealand. There is no problem with her flying to Wellington as all MPs and many business people do, the issue is with the Masterston extension to her journey. It could have been done more cheaply by the Wairarapa train if it would ever get her to the interview, but equally well she could have engaged a taxi for the journey. The complaint seems motivated by the fact that she is a Green MP rather by any real waste of public money. If the complainant has any credibility, let him provide receipts for all the bus tickets he uses for his business travel- assuming he does actually work for a living.

She is a list MP - she therefore represents nobody other than Green Party leadership. If she were to annoy them she would lose her job by being demoted down the list; unlike proper MPs who can be voted in and out by their electorates.

Actually she represents Green Party voters, many of whom voted for the party in part or entirely because she was rated on its list.

Why so much of a storm in a tea cup over "hundreds" of dollars.... politicians waste MILLIONS daily write about that

This free service is available and already Government funded

http://www.nzrelay.co.nz/About/

You can talk with a deaf person via an interpreter and available 24 hours a day

Having listened to the podcast of Mojo's Arrow FM interview, she comments directly (18 minutes on) about how she can't even follow the regular conference calls of the Green Party using this service over the phone if she's not in the room with most of the other MPs, because they often go too fast.

Maybe it works on a private phone call, but it doesn't sound like the type of service which would nicely accommodate a typical radio interview.

I'm sure Mojo would be happy to elaborate on her reasons for needing to travel to the studio if someone actually asked her, but all this asserting about how the available options *must* be fine for her in every circumstance by people who don't actually understand what those circumstances are, is rather pointless.

Here's a Tweet from Jordan Williams, refusing to respond to Patrick Gower (TV3) on the $209,000 Rebstock Inquiry, on the grounds that nobody had time to look into it. https://twitter.com/JordNZ/status/436028297760108546

If avoiding comment without actually having real and verified information is so important to Jordan Williams and the Taxpayer's Union, surely he could have held off in this case?

Maybe all those people who are suggesting Mojo should have used Technology X or Service X should first go and listen to the freely downloadable Podcast of the interview from Arrow FM's Wheels On Fire programme, available from http://www.arrowfm.co.nz/podcasts/Wheels-On-Fire/ , in which Mojo spends lots of time actually talking about the major struggles and frustrations that she and other disabled people routinely have with what's actually available.

thank you so much Mike for your comments; I dont know this politician and funny Im no into politics at all. The lack of understand with some people is just incredible in New Zealand.
Im a young Mum with two sons one who is profoundly deaf and the youngest is not disabled. There is no sympathy card its a fact of life everyday for families like mine we know face to face communication is paramount.
I work in the corporate world and some people are very ignorant/unaware of to the needs of disabled people. Its sad. We have thought many times about moving overseas due to better funding and more opportunities.

I may not know what it's like living with someone who's deaf, but if it's anything like living with someone who is mentally disabled then I can guess that it would not be easy... as looking after someone who's mentally disabled is certainly no walk in the park that's for sure.

And as for Jordan Williams he's a complete jerk for his comment in regards to Masterton... "The only silver lining is that the time spent travelling to go on the station in the middle of nowhere is less time spent dreaming up new ways to spend tax payers money."... So Masterton and so it would seem the Wairarapa is nothing more than a "middle of nowhere" backwater know nothing area of the country as far as he's concerned... make's you wonder how many other Higher Up's feel the same way about us small town people???

The problem the Greens have is their MPs are very quick to go fly to an environmental conference in Sierra Leone, or Central America, of fly to an oil protest in the South Island - all so they can complain about emissions.