Ryall’s style

July 31st, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar


Photo by Mark Mitchell, NZ Herald.

It was very amusing to see almost every male National MP yesterday, from the PM down, wearing a bright shirt and tie combination mimicking the trademark style of who gave his valedictory speech yesterday. A fair few of the female MPs also wore a garish tie.

Some extracts from Tony’s speech:

 I want to acknowledge Dame Jenny Shipley who, as Prime Minister, promoted me to Cabinet in 1997. It was my great privilege to play a part in delivering New Zealand’s first woman Prime Minister, and it was a great privilege. We were a group, as we were planning that, called the “Te Puke Bypass Committee”, as some will remember, and it is a great pleasure to me that we are now spending $400 million on the proper * Te Puke bypass, and that will be opening shortly. 

The hilarious thing about the coup committee calling themselves the Te Puke Bypass Committee is that when a meeting was scheduled in Jenny Shipley’s diary (she was the Transport Minister) her ever efficient SPS proactively asked the Ministry for background papers for the meeting on the Te Puke bypass. A puzzled Ministry informed him that there was no bypass planned, and should they start work on one! 🙂

The Prime Minister also gave me the job as Minister of Health. I have got to say this has been the best job in the Government. You work with quality people every day who are dedicated to the welfare of New Zealanders. I wake up most mornings and I turn to my wife and say: “Ugh, imagine being Minister of Education.” 

Heh. The laughter of Hekia was noticeable at this point!

I think over the last 6 years our doctors and nurses in the team have delivered exceptional results for New Zealanders across quality, productivity, and the financial domains within constrained funding—those six national health targets. You know, doctors and nurses are very competitive people, and no one likes being at the bottom of those national health targets. That has really driven much better performance—40,000 extra elective surgeries, quicker emergency departments, and much faster cancer treatment. Immunisation—I noted Dr Hutchison talked about the fact that in 10 of our 20 district health boards, the 2-year-old Māori immunisation rate is now higher than the Pākehā immunisation rate. No one would ever have thought that that was possible in New Zealand. 

That is a huge turn-around.

Tobacco smoking—fantastic work that we have done there. I went to the * World Health Assembly in Geneva—I have got to say, I have taken only two overseas trips, Prime Minister, as Minister of Health. I was there talking about this work that we are doing in smoke-free New Zealand by 2025, a programme that we have systematised across the whole country called ABC—ask if you are a smoker; if you are, it is a “b” for a brief conversation, because that is quite effective in getting people to quit; and, “c”, offer you cessation medicine—ABC. So I went to the World Health Assembly and I was giving a talk about this. I do not know how many people in this House have ever given a speech where you lose your audience—it had never happened to me before that time. Everyone from Africa started talking amongst themselves, and I thought “Oh my goodness, I have caused an international incident.” So I completed my contribution and I sat down next to a lady from Jamaica, and I said “Why was everyone from Africa sort of quite dislocated by my speech?”. She said “Well, in Africa, they have ABC for HIV Aids—“a” for abstinence, “b” for being faithful, and “c”, if you cannot be faithful, use a condom.”, and they could not work out how that stopped smoking.


It always pays to be very careful. Jo Goodhew, as the Associate Minister, is doing this hand hygiene thing. I was visiting an endoscopy suite a couple of years ago and I thought, well here is a great photo opportunity with the hand gel, which I did, and proceeded to rub my hands, to which every person in the endoscopy suite theatre gasped in horror. I thought “What is all the worry here?”. Of course, it was lubricating gel.

This was my favourite joke.

I think there are five big mega trends and it is just the interaction between all of them is going to change health care completely. The first of the five is care closer to home. All this care is coming out of hospitals into communities, into people’s homes, pharmacists, general practitioners, home care workers, nutrition advisers—all these people are playing a greater role, and there is going to be this much greater responsibility that we are all going to have to take for our health care in something that they call self-care. It is a bit like Air New Zealand—it is getting us to do all the work and we like it. This is where we are going to have to take responsibility. Sir Ron Avery is developing a piece of technology the size of your wrist watch, with a beam that comes on your wrist and measures your temperature, your blood pressure, and your pulse, and that information is then transmitted to a device that can be monitored by your general practice.

So you can imagine this technology thing is going to change everything. That is my second point—that this anywhere, anytime use of innovative technology is going to change our health care. It is this device it is just going to help change everything over the next 5 years to 10 years. You are going to be able to plug your own personal ultrasound device into your cellphone. You can imagine beaming that message to your local general practitioner. These advances are incredible. Thirdly, intelligence and insight from big data—this work that we are doing, collecting information across Government departments, across patients, across people with all the privacy protections, is going to allow us to build a picture on how health care interventions change people’s lives, and the best place to do it. Fourth is personalised medicine. All this knowledge about your genome and your biomarkers is going to allow clinicians to develop very personalised therapies solely to you. They are going to be able to provide you with information about your risk factors into the future. These have huge ethical issues about whether we actually want to know these risks, but this personalised medicine is going to be amazing. I think the fifth big trend that is going to affect health care is that we are going to have this expanding role of non-physicians and payment that actually rewards the quality of care and the outcome that people provide.

It was fascinating to hear Tony talk of the big picture in health and where he sees the future.

But I cannot finish off without acknowledging my three comrades, Bill, Nick, and Roger. You know, Parliament can be a very lonely place. It can be full of self-doubt and frustrated ambition. I think it is pretty unusual for any member of Parliament to have had three very close friends throughout their whole career. The relationship with those guys has been enduring and sustaining. They are extremely capable people who have continued to be friends over the last 25 years. Contrary to public opinion, we have never worked as a group. Frankly, we can never agree on anything. On any issue, it is always 2:2, and the two always varies. So it has been wonderful to have that association with them. It has just been the most fantastic association anyone could have in Parliament, and I have just really appreciated the support that those guys have given. 

MPs may often have lots of friendly colleagues, but quite rare to have them become life-long friends. It was quite cool to see not just the Ryall family in Parliament for the valedictory, but the wives and kids of his friends also.

Tony’s departure does leave a big gap in National’s ranks. His successor as Minister of Health will have a very challenging time.

19 Responses to “Ryall’s style”

  1. mikenmild (23,645 comments) says:

    ‘wearing a bright short and tie combination’
    How do you know what shorts they were wearing?

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  2. BeaB (2,512 comments) says:

    One of our best. We’ll miss him.

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  3. RightNow (7,328 comments) says:

    mikenmild, did you read down as far as “the bog picture”?

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  4. mikenmild (23,645 comments) says:

    Spellchecking would not pick this stuff up, you have to proofread your own copy.

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  5. RightNow (7,328 comments) says:

    Sometimes its the quirky typos that are the icing on the cake, and they both kind of seem apropos to this post.

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  6. Changeiscoming (334 comments) says:

    Yes very gay clothing here!

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  7. Southern Raider (2,107 comments) says:

    Ryall is a complete fuck wit. He’s fucked over type 1 diabetics across NZ, have put their lives at serious risk and fails to engage around the issues.

    I know that in the diabetic community he has single handidly cost National a lot of votes.

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  8. Viking2 (14,374 comments) says:

    Well I have a friend who would say completely the opposite and is alive Today because of the changes Ryall made.

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  9. Southern Raider (2,107 comments) says:

    Good to see all you patsies down ticking me. Get a fucken grip. I’m sure you would be happy if your loved ones lives were put at risk because of decisions made by this fuckwit.

    He agreed to single source supply of a vastly inferior glucose meter which has put people in hospital and has a huge risk someone will die. When diabetics raised the issue that they don’t work in low temperatures (under 5 degrees) the response was to put it in your arm pit for 10mins. Diabetics can be in a coma in that time

    Keep on down ticking me and have a little wank about his fuckin ties

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  10. Southern Raider (2,107 comments) says:

    Viking I bet your friend isn’t a diabetic

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  11. BeaB (2,512 comments) says:

    Southern raider
    Your unpleasantness makes it hard to believe a word you say.

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  12. hmmokrightitis (1,919 comments) says:

    A minister who was a pleasure to deal with, unlike the complete tosser Hodgson. A vile cock of a man who spoke down to all and sundry, and yet had the barest grip on facts Ive seen in a grown up.

    And Raider, I think you will find that decision wasnt made BY the minister, it was recommended TO him by qualified clinicians – and being a ‘layman’ he accepted the advice he was given. Thats how it works. Maybe your gripe should be with those clinical professionals who might know a little about what they are talking about.

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  13. Keeping Stock (12,398 comments) says:

    The story Ryall told of being bear-hugged by the husband of a breast cancer patient after National made the decision to fund a year of Herceptin treatment was especially poignant. Many lives have been saved or improved as a result of this decision by Tony Ryall and the incoming Government in 2008.

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  14. Rex Widerstrom (5,113 comments) says:

    It’s interesting that the decision on diabetes meters comes back to haunt him. As hmmokrightitis says, it’s more than likely the decision he took was the one recommended to him by Ministry bureaucrats.

    However the mark of a truly good Minister is one who looks beyond his small coteries of advisors and, in particular, listens to the people most affected – in this case, diabetics and their families.

    In my experience, a failure to do so usually has one of two causes. Either a belief in their own omniscience, as if toadying to enough selectors, list rankers and your leader somehow makes you an expert in something you’ve had little or no experience in; or a misplaced belief that bureaucrats with fancy-sounding degrees – and often with little or no real-world experience – have all the answers.

    Tony Ryall, I think, is firmly in the latter category. He seems genuinely enthusiastic about advances in health care and desirous of achieving the best outcomes; but that left him a little too immersed in a sea of suits and white coats, and slightly in awe of them.

    I haven’t had a lot to do with him but, like hmmokrightitis, when I did I found him to be polite and not at all dismissive. Unlike a long, long list of MPs I could detail here, from various parties, who seemed to believe parking their arse on green leather for a while elevated them to the pantheon of greatness.

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  15. Southern Raider (2,107 comments) says:

    The issue I have is he refused to engage with the impacted users and kept on shoving them back to Pharmac who just congratulated themselves on saving money.

    Good on him for helping cancer patients and I’m happy for them, however that doesn’t fix his lack of engagement with diabetics.

    I fear is a lot of decisions around diabetes are based on race in our health system. Type 2 which generally affects Pacific Islanders and Maoris (linked to diet and weight) gets all the headlines and focus. Type 1 which is a immune deficiency disease is the poor cousin because it more often that not impacts Europeans and there is a growing number of children with Type 1 which is scary.

    With Type 2 your unlikely to drop dead, whereas if you have a kid with Type 1 they can go into a coma at any time.

    I apologise for my frankness in above posts, but if you had loved ones being put at risk by a piece of shit device that doesn’t work to spec then you may be upset as well

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  16. Rex Widerstrom (5,113 comments) says:

    @Southern Raider

    I’m not trying to excuse his failure to engage, just positing a reason for it – bureaucratic capture rather than the arrogance I’ve seen in some Ministers (and more than a few lowly MPs).

    Ryall (from memory) has an accounting background, so being put in charge of health would be daunting. There’d be a natural tendency to rely heavily on your officials… but that’s no excuse for not looking outside the small coterie when a significant number of people are telling you your decision is wrong.

    Pharmac is a whole ‘nother story, as they say. I have an inbuilt dislike of taking what are inherently political decisions – from funding a particular drug to setting the cash rate – out of the hands of our elected representatives. Yes, I appreciate the obvious advantages but the major disadvantage is that it then entirely removes the decision making process from influence by the public. The bureaucrats can simply do as they please and the relevant Minister is often actively prohibited by statute from intervening.

    Yet, in your example, unless a product is ineffective – in which case it shouldn’t be funded at all – there isn’t a “right” answer. Some people (probably without diabetes in themselves or their family) might applaud the cost saving. Others might be appalled at the risk to human life. The same applies to Herceptin and just about anything else.

    Of course if people do die as a result, the Minister (and the government of which he or she is a part) have a handy scapegoat.

    “Go talk to Pharmac” isn’t an acceptable response from a Minister. But it’s the safest one he can make. And politics as we practice it rewards safety and often penalises bravery.

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  17. Mark (1,614 comments) says:

    I like to benchmark Ryall’s handling of the Health Portfolio with Parata’s handing of Education. Ryall is a genius 🙂

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  18. Viking2 (14,374 comments) says:

    ?Tony spent 9 years in opposition getting to know anybody who was anybody in the Health system. The only Nat. to make any kind of effort towards the future other than collect their pay.

    Go anywhere and they have talked with him, the locals here in the Bay were regular stops. The hospital people were the same and he is held in Awe by the staff at Tga.

    If it hadn’t been for Key being greedy and Collins being a bully Ryall and Power should have been the next leadership. But why hang around when you are stopped from achieving your ambitions of 20 years?

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  19. Warren Murray (400 comments) says:

    Ive been very impressed by the way Ryall managed one of the hardest portfolios of any government. listened to the valedictory, well worth it.

    Thank you Mr Ryall and good luck for the future.

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