Tony Ryall. Photo Getty
Health Minister Tony Ryall has signed off on his 24-year
political career by reminiscing on his role in asset sales and
his proudest achievements as Health Minister.
Mr Ryall's colleagues mimicked his signature style of wearing
colourful shirt-and-tie combinations as a tribute to the
minister whose steady hand has kept the health portfolio
relatively trouble-free for the past six years.
The Bay of Plenty MP recalled helping organise Jenny
Shipley's takeover as Prime Minister from Jim Bolger.
"It was my great privilege to play a part in delivering New
Zealand's first woman Prime Minister."
The group dubbed themselves the "Te Puke Bypass Committee" as
"So it's a great pleasure to me that we are now spending $400
million on the proper Te Puke bypass."
Mr Ryall also spoke about working with Bill English on asset
sales -- in the current Government and the National
Government in the 1990s.
"Bill commented to me the other day that ... we've privatised
or partially privatised $7.7 billion worth of assets. He
thought that was more than Richard Prebble, but we're not
going to tell anybody about that."
His nine years in Opposition were frustrating, but Health
Minister was the "best job in the Government" despite its
notoriety for being a problematic portfolio.
"I wake up most mornings, and I turn to my wife and I say
'ugh. Imagine being Minister of Education'. That is a really
He was particularly proud of funding breast cancer drug
Herceptin which had improved many lives.
Other achievements included getting immunisation rates for
2-year-old Maori above those for Pakeha and reducing
emergency department waiting times.
He told stories of campaigning, including unsuccessfully
trying to fend off a pitbull with a clipboard in his first
election campaign in 1990. When he reported the bites to his
predecessor, Ian McLean, he was told to milk it for coverage
-- and ended up on the front page of the Herald.
Mr Ryall paid tribute to his closest friends from Parliament,
Mr English, Nick Smith and Roger Sowry, saying although they
had been close for years they could never work together
because they never agreed.
All four entered Parliament in 1990 and came to be known as
the "Brat Pack" because of their youth and friendship.
Entered Parliament in 1990 as MP for East Cape.
Was in the "Brat Pack".
Was one of four who organised Jenny Shipley's coup of Jim
Bolger in 1997.
Was first made a minister in 1997, portfolios included SOEs,
Justice and State Services.
Was given health portfolio in Opposition in 2005.
Health Minister since 2008 and gained attention for his
surprise visits to emergency departments to check on waiting
- Claire Trevett of the New Zealand Herald