It seems Tony Ryall has been “secret shopping” around New Zealand’s accident and emergency waiting rooms and Labour is concerned about the breech of protocol.
Get real. The idea that a minister cares enough about his portfolio to take time out of his busy schedule to spot check services is PR gold.
Especially when that minister is responsible for under the radar cuts all over the place, is facing some backlash down south, and needs some cover.
But Tone’s a particularly good operator and he’s learned from National’s Crown health Enterprises fiasco in the 1990s – he’s not going to do a bells and whistles attack because that’s amateur hour – you only have to look at how Bennett is in perpetual damage control on welfare issues to see the dangers of a front-on attack.
On the other hand carrying out a series of cuts while running a “business as usual” line is enough to stay under the radar. After all, if you’re messing with operational stuff and not running your agenda through legislation you avoid the parliamentary spotlight.
And that’s exactly what Tony’s been doing. Cutting the budget in Wellington, ditching neurological services in Dunedin, driving down the health budget nationally – it’s all been done with moderate terms like “certainty” and “strong finances” and a careful strategy of not being available to answer the hard questions.
Now he’s the minister of “spot checks”. I suspect the news of these drop-ins has come from Ryall’s office and will work to offset the bad PR he’s had around the Dunedin neurological issue and Labour is walking straight into it by trying to gain traction on a “protocol” issue nobody gives a damn about.
A couple of better questions would be how did this get out (I’ll be it was his office) and how many “spot checks” has he made (I’ll bet it’s no more than needed to sell the story).
He’s a slippery old bugger with quite some time in the saddle. Just look at how low profile he’s kept health issues. I wonder how long he’ll get away with it…