Ryall cuts ties with Parliament

Tony Ryall. Photo Getty
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 a disguise.

"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 tough job."

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.

Tony Ryall

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 times

- Claire Trevett of the New Zealand Herald

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