Tony Ryall and democracy

I have just sent a letter to the Speaker of Parliament to complain about the apparent disregard with which the Minister of Health, Tony Ryall, has been treating his democratic obligations.

Here’s the main gist of my complaint:

  • Every single one of the 101 Questions for Written Answer I have asked the Minister this year has come back either unanswered, late, or insufficiently answered.
  • He has given the answer “I am not able to answer this question within the set timeframe. I undertake to respond to the Member as soon as possible” 50 times!

When a Minister fluffs their answer to a few written questions here or there it’s aggravating, but on Tony Ryall’s scale it starts to pose questions about his ability to do his job.

Some of the answers are over two months late. Considering that the Parliamentary rules state they should be answered within six days, that two month delay is painting a real picture about this Minister.

What is particularly galling about Minister Ryall’s delaying of my most recent set of questions, lodged on the 9th of August, is that they are all regarding an answer to an oral question that I asked the Minister in the House on the 8th of August. I lodged these written questions to clarify the answers he gave. It should be pretty simple to send through the facts that clarify the assertions he made in the House. If he doesn’t have that information then how did he make those claims in the first place?

I asked what the membership of the Public Health Advisory Committee is, what date it last met, and if the Minister intends to resume its work. These answers require little to no research and so his effective refusal to answer points towards him not wanting to answer rather than any sort of problem with timeframes.

There can be no credible reason that the Minister is unable to answer in time as far as I can see, except to hold up the machinery of Parliament and democracy.

Not exactly Ministerial behaviour.

About Kevin Hague 163 Articles

Green Party Member of Parliament

20 Comments Posted

  1. I don’t suppose anyone would have the stats on how promptly Tony Ryall responds to (a) parliamentary questions from other MPs, and (b) OIA Requests?

    ie. Is this a case of Tony Ryall being generally and hopelessly inefficient with his legal obligations, or is a case of Tony Ryall giving the metaphoric finger to Kevin Hague? (Neither is acceptable.)

  2. Just another example of this government’s MP’s noting that their leader gets away with arrogant behaviour and believe they have the right to do the same. I regard them and their leader with the utmost contempt. The same level of contempt they show to the people of this country…

  3. A rule of cross-examination in Court is never to ask a question you don’t know the answer to, and that often applies with oral questions in the House, but it doesn’t apply to written questions. Very often the point of written questions is to find out things. For example, Tony Ryall has been boasting about big increases to elective surgery. My written questions have been able to show that the elective surgery is increasingly of less complex cases, meaning that people with the greatest need may well still be missing out. His often repeated claim of 1,000 extra doctors in our hospitals takes on a different complexion when you know that more than half of those doctors are junior doctors (not specialists), more than half went to Auckland with none at all going to some districts, and the rate of increase in numbers is lower than is needed or was achieved under Labour. So written questions are a vital tool of democracy. I think I’ve shown considerable restraint, and will be interested to see what the Speaker makes of the Minister’s damning record.

  4. @sprout

    I agree.. I think the Key-party are more concerned about the Greens opposition than Labour (currently in disarray ?)

    Good onya Kevin, methinks this Govt. is trying to redefine the word ‘Democracy’ to mean ‘Master/Servant’ society where the wealthy have their say & the rest are just kept ‘down-trodden’ (aka : Monarchist)


  5. What goes around, comes around.
    Furthermore, as much as I am not happy with National these days the earlier comment stating “arrogant fascists and their contempt for democracy” is equally applicable toward the attitude of the Labour party ( and others ) not so long ago.
    Either way, the concerns of this nation’s majority do not, usually, appear to be considered valid and worthy of the time of our supposed representatives.

    The public has a short memory, methinks.

    I really have no idea for whom I am going to vote in the next election.

  6. Photonz1’s defense of Ryall here is one of his weakest efforts to date. You’d wonder why he’d bother putting up such a limp defense, given that it works against Ryall and for our man Kevin, who, as bsprout says, is coming across as measured and reliable, where Ryall looks and sounds like a weasel.

  7. The paltry little Green Party is obviously getting under his skin, and for good reason. Keep up the great work Kevin. I enjoy watching your calm unflappable manner, it clearly shows who is in command of the real facts.

  8. We are no longer a democracy, so why expect courtesy and proper answers from the henchmen of a dictator.

    Grow up and learn to know tow to THE LEADER.

  9. For our democracy to work, it is critical the opposition is able to hold ministers to account through asking written and oral questions.

    Besides, its not like its rocket science as the bulk of the legwork will be palmed off on the Ministry of Health.

    Although some stalling on the part of a reticent minister is normal (the aim of the game is to not get caught out), this does make you wonder about Tony Ryall and if there is some sort of ulterior motive. As our glorious Prime Minister once said – if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.

  10. By Dave’s argument, question time should be abolished. Every Minister should be able to give an account of his/her work to the House. These are written questions and ministers have experts at hand to answer them.

  11. Oh forgot to mention; if you have most answers for those questions he can’t answer, maybe you should have his job! They should all resign!

  12. just another example of how useless the Key govt and those ministers are.Sigh!
    I suspect most of the time they deliberately didn’t give answers to those obvious/simple/straight forward questions was because those (if honest) answers will make themselves or/and Key govt look really really bad/stupid/useless/irresponsible, so they gave all other excuses to avoid giving real answers. Especially when their answers will be on the record/filmed and broadcasted…
    How about preparing those answers for them (where possible) so they can’t dodge, or give them choices of Answers A.B.C…
    gosh i feel like cursing again…DTG!

  13. dave should know that Kevin is the Green Party spokesperson on Health, so it is perfectly reasonable for Kevin to be asking these questions of the Minister for Health on behalf of all the Green Party MPs, particularly if his previous questions aren’t being answered properly. And the Minister can easily have one of his staff provide the answer – he doesn’t have to do it himself, although he is responsible for the answer.

    PhotoNZ1 – just because the Minister doesn’t have to research an answer, it doesn’t imply that any MP can easily find out the answer, particularly if it is about the Minister’s intended policy.


  14. “Asking questions of a ministeri that are a distraction from the true work of the minister ( setting, communicating and ensuring the implementation of policy)”

    Doesn’t “communicating… the implementation of policy” include answering questions?

  15. Following a meeting with the Assoc. Minister Tariana Turia I was informed by her that neither herself nor Tony Ryall had any personal authority to make decisions as they had to comply with directions from the Ministry. This means that they are effectively mouthpieces for bureaucratic advisors who may well have their own agendas when establishing policy. This tends to predictably make questioning the Minister on policy matters frustrating and ultimately, useless.

  16. Kevin says “These answers require little to no research…….”

    So why are you wasting parliaments time asking questions where you say the answer requires little research and no time?

    Surely the Minister’s time is better spent running the health system, than wasted answering hundreds of questions where you could easily find out the answers yourself.

    Would I be right if I said your questions are probably mainly the type where you already know the answers anyway?

  17. In reply to Dave, knowing whether an allegedly current policy is still being implemented might well be part of parliament’s role in holding the executive to account, and might well be an input into the good composition of a future act on a related subject.

    Mostly separately, I think I’ve worked out what the phrase “explaining is losing” means to the people who use it: it means that if they’re backed into a corner where they have to explain something half-true (eg work is good for people), then the people for whom it’s false may come to light, and they may end up looking stupid.

  18. Like Rick says they are arrogant fascists and their contempt for democracy has been all too evident over the past 5yrs and hopefully we wont have to suffer Keys wet dream much longer God defend NZ from these who serve only themselves

  19. If every MP asked a minister a written question every sitting day in the house ( a little less than your record to date this year, ) they would have to have a hundred people in their office, or do nothing themselves but answer questions. It strikes me that the person Abusing democracy is you. Asking questions of a ministeri that are a distraction from the true work of the minister ( setting, communicating and ensuring the implementation of policy) AND the work of the House ( processing bills into Acts). How your question on a committee assists you in reviewing bills and working to enhance them for society’s good is beyond me.

  20. People like Ryall believe that they are born to rule and that the Opposition are little more than dogs snapping at them, who can safely be ignored. It’s the typical semi-fascist attitude everywhere. The name of his party, “National”, is arrogant and I always preface it with “so-called”.

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