Did Alf hear correctly?
An important point here is that some people have difficulties in the hearing department, and Alf senses he might have to include himself as one of these as he gets older.
What he heard while munching on his toast – he thinks – was an ardent lobbyist blatting on Morning Report about extra funding being needed for a deaf MP to be accorded equitable treatment. Or equal treatment. Of something like that.
He is fascinated by the logic.
We are all equal – right?
But some people need more money for extra help than others require to do the same job. Public money, let it be noted.
This is a variant of that thing in Animal Farm about all animals being equal but some are more equal than others.
Alf is bothered about this equality bollocks.
By the same logic we should all be eligible to join the bloody SAS, thereby ruling out any need for demanding physical tests for SAS commanders to ensure we are fit enough to do the job.
And if we aren’t fit enough to do the job?
Simple – we should ask for and be given whatever help is needed so we can do it.
The same goes for – let’s say – a brain surgeon’s job.
Should help be provided to enable a blind person or someone with Parkinson’s disease to do this work?
These profound thoughts were triggered by the fuss over Mojo Mathers, the profoundly deaf Green Party MP and her need for someone to be hired to do some listening for her.
The whole Mojo business illustrates that – like it or not – we aren’t all equal. Some of us (Alf is a good example) are much smarter than average and some are much stupider; some are exceptionally trim and fit and others are fat and slovenly; some have all their faculties, some do not …and so on.
Alf has no objection to Mojo being given more help than he is given. His argument – a philosophic one – is with all that stuff about equality and equitable treatment.
He recognises that a profoundly deaf MP must need help to keep up to speed during bruising and blustering debates in the House.
In the same way he suspects several other MPs, more likely to be Labour or Greens, have a feeble grip on what’s happening in Parliament and could do with some help.
Should they be given extra help to compensate for their shortcomings in the comprehension department?
No. Voters should be able to spot which MPs can or can’t hack it and make judgements on how well they are earning their salaries and perks.
Alf does not intend arguing against public money being used to provide the necessary assistance for Mojo.
But he will confess to being a bit bothered about where the money might come from in these days of tight budgets.
Yes, a serious matter of self-interest is under discussion here.
The point is illustrated by the intro of a Stuff report on the Mojo matter.
It can afford to send MPs on a $13,000 South American jaunt, shell out $15,000 on art and almost $8000 on parties.
But Parliamentary Service cannot find an extra $20,000 to $30,000 to allow deaf MP Mojo Mathers to participate in debates.
The report proceeds to deal with the row between the Green Party and Speaker Lockwood Smith after Mojo Mathers was told she must pay for electronic note-taking in Parliament out of her own budget.
Mathers, who was elected in November, said the decision was discrimination and would deter people with disabilities from entering Parliament.
However, Smith insisted he was bound by parliamentary process and did not have the authority to provide extra staff time to do the note-taking.
He wants a solution to be found by MPs, rather than asking the taxpayers to stump up more cash.
“Support for members of Parliament is something that’s spelt out in the Speaker’s directions. It’s separately appropriated by Parliament. I can’t, under the law, simply say `Oh, forget about that, we’ll put a bit of money in from here or there’. It’s something I have to consult on.”
Stuff’s mention of the money spent on MPs’ jaunts is a bit of a worry.
And that’s where self-interest colours Alf’s thinking.
If Lockwood can’t get more money from somewhere else, he might be tempted to take it from the jet-setters’ fund and yours truly might miss out on a trip.
That would be a bit of a bugger and seriously sour Alf’s attitude to the Greens.