Up for the challenge

Written By: - Date published: 11:05 am, August 15th, 2010 - 57 comments
Categories: labour, leadership, phil goff - Tags:

The Herald is carrying this piece by Phil Goff – I’m sure Phil won’t mind if we reproduce it here. If you have any constructive suggestions or comments for Phil, make them below. I’ll collate them and email them to him on our behalf. — r0b

Up for the challenge
Phil Goff

Being opposition Leader can be a bugger of a job

When I took the job, I kept getting told that it was the worst job in Parliament. This came from people who would know – Helen Clark, Bill English and Mike Moore.

They were right. It is a thankless task in many ways – you don’t have the resources and unless there is a problem it’s hard to get media attention and you get your share of criticism.

“You talk too much, you need a haircut, you need to relax.” It comes from all directions. Some of it is valid, some of it is barmy.

I’ve found a way to make sense of it and make it work for me. A couple of days after the Carter episode I went out and bought a new chainsaw.

I got a 20-inch Stihl. It goes beautifully. I’ve got some old pine and macrocarpa on my place I want to make into firewood for next winter.

It’s good to have some home life separate from my job as a politician. Being out on the farm gives me time to think.

I’m well experienced at the skills you need to be a minister. Analysing a problem, being sure of your facts, finding solutions that work. I’ve done it for years and I can do it well. The challenges of being Opposition Leader are different and more testing.

Not that I am complaining. I love the challenge.

I came into this job with my eyes open. I am a realist. I know we are underdogs but I also know we can win next year.

The problems are starting to stack up for the Government. Prices are rising, GST is about to go up, and this will eat away any tax cut people may get.

Unemployment is rising and wages are stagnant while frontline public services are getting cut. People are really doing it hard out there and this Government doesn’t have a plan for a stronger economy.

I also look at the Labour team in Parliament. We have a good mix of experience and fresh talent in the ranks and a byelection in Mana to galvanise us.

We had a caucus meeting in Whangarei this week and there’s a good feeling in the camp.

During the day, we had a discussion on future policies. There were some fantastic ideas coming out. Some will go by the wayside because they are not affordable and Labour would rather under-promise and over-deliver; other ideas will need fine-tuning. It’s all part of the process.

The important thing for me was that my team is keen and coming up with new ideas.

It was good to get out of Wellington – meeting up with people where they live, listening to their concerns, a really good community forum and talking with people in their workplaces and talking to small businesses.

There’s only a year or so to the election. Another year of travelling the country getting my message out and meeting New Zealanders. Another year of early starts and late nights.

It’s not always easy what with the travel, phone calls, and public events. But I try and mostly manage it thanks to a very understanding wife.

Doing what I can on the farm is a great way of relaxing. There are 12 hectares. Last year our big project was building a new shed. I have a new appreciation of the resource consent laws after that saga. This year it’s the firewood.

In between these bigger jobs, there’s always something to keep myself busy on a spare Sunday afternoon.

But the truth is I’m just the labourer. My wife Mary is the heartbeat of the farm. She oversees lambing, organises the haymaking and makes sure the cattle are looked after.

Even so, I love the chance to do something completely different from politics. If I’m not on the farm on a free afternoon, I like to get out on my Triumph 850cc Bonneville motorbike (the other reason I needed a new shed).

I have ridden motorbikes for years. Mary and I got around Auckland on it before we were married, had kids, and I became a minister.

When we rode the new bike for the first time, Mary couldn’t figure out what was different from when we were younger. Then she realised: she didn’t have my long hair flying around her face as we raced along.

It’s also a lot more fun than chopping firewood.

With the way I intend pitching myself into battle over the next year though, the firewood may have to wait a little while yet.

57 comments on “Up for the challenge ”

  1. Anne 1

    I think this is a smart move on Phil Goff’s part. We constantly hear about Key being an… ordinary bloke who understands us ordinary blokes and blokesses. The absurdity of the line is laughable. When did Key build a shed, chop wood, milk the cows, fix the car, mend the fence, scrub the patio, paint the house, mow the lawns, unblock the drain etc.etc. etc.? My pick is, he’s probably never done any of them except mow a lawn once or twice and that would have been many years ago. Yet we have a Labour leader in Phil Goff who leads by example and clearly has done them all.

    • Steve 1.1

      When did you Anne?

      • Anne 1.1.1

        For your info. clever-dick (silly-dick more like it) done quite a few of them!
        And the post is not about me – or you – so get back on topic.

        • comedy

          Anne Phil Goff is a career politician and a pretty good one, can’t see why he’s trying to pretend to be anything else

          • A post with me in it

            He is but it shows he actually does real things in his spare time. To me personally, it does not matter a shite compared to how well you actually do the job (and he does it well) but it very may well do to others. Labour’s line coming into the next election will be that they care and can do something about the plight of the working class in NZ.

            John key lives in a mansion in Parnell goes to Hawaii and hands out wines from his winery estate at xmas. Goff lives on a farm, rides around on his triumph cuts wood and builds sheds.

            Now which one are you going to believe more when they start debating that issue in a year?

            It is exactly the sort of perspective Goff needed to get out there. I hope it gets some traction and wakes a few people up.

            • comedy

              “Now which one are you going to believe more when they start debating that issue in a year?”

              Neither, they are are politicians, anyone who believes a politician especially going into an election campaign needs their head reading.

              • A post with me in it


                You realise that by using the “you” I am not referring to you and me.

                I don’t vote for either.

  2. Jonathan 2

    It’s nice enough I guess, but seriously, is there some huge group of swing voters who ride motorcycles or something I’m not aware of? Why does he keep prattling on about them in every interview? I dunno if somebody thinks it’s a ‘kiwi battler’ thing to do, but seriously, nobody gives a fuck about riding bikes.

  3. illuminatedtiger 3

    I would tell him that rolling even a government as bad an incompetent as this one in its first term will be nigh on impossible. But rolling it after a second term – that would not be hard. Hang in there Phil. Your time at the top is just around the corner!

  4. Shona 4

    One of the hats I wear in life is that of a teacher of voice and drama. Phil you need voice lessons. Never mind the maddening nano second sound bite. You need to breath deeper and slower .Keep the pitch in the lower register. Never be shrill. Build volume more slowly and speak more slowly. You have a quick analytical mind the masses can’t cop with the TMI( too much information) style of your delivery. Use the KIS ( keep it simple) principle when dealing with the media .Get some voice /media lessons. Repealing the Reserve Bank Act and managing the currency would be great policy platforms to launch Labour’s campaign. Who knows I might even vote Labour for the first time in more than 25 years!

    • pollywog 4.1

      eh !!!

      …rattling off bullet points in a flat monotone and trying to see how many he can squeeze off in a 20 second soundbite is not what and how we want to hear politicians speak.

      dude needs to run his sentences together and talk like we’re his mates…it’s the only thing Key’s got going for him and seems to work a treat.

  5. Ticked most of the boxes but what about the hunting, fishing and shooting?

  6. just saying 6


    “Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question “Why?” His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers — and as a counterpoint Tivo, which (until a recent court victory that tripled its stock price) appeared to be struggling.”

    Goff needs to express what he believes in – in the abstract if necessary.

    I don’t like the need for a tactical manipulative approach, but needs must. We can’t be having another term of NACT if we can avoid it. The above link is a TED talk about ‘inspiring leadership’ and might be worth a look.

  7. deemac 7

    Goff is a decent human being who puts NZ first but the media have a policy of belittling him that can become self-fulfilling – voters think he’s ineffective because that’s what it says in the papers.
    Can you imagine the media outrage if Helen had bought a holiday home in Hawaii?
    The more the economy tanks, the more Kiwis will come to see that wonky John Key has no plan for them except lower wages, higher prices and job insecurity. It’s always difficult to convince voters that 3 years is long enough to see what a government is up to but the Nats are beginning to show their true colours. For NZ’s sake we have to hope that the moment of realisation comes before the general election!

  8. Olwyn 8

    PR seems to me increasingly secondary as NZ stagnates and more and more people face either uncertainty or actual pain. However, on the PR front, two things have greatly helped John Key. One, which would not do everything by itself, is wall-to-wall media endorsement. The other, which may even be what he’s really like, is his ability to replicate a Howick or North Shore man, while being significantly richer. Ordering pizza, taking his son to the football, firing up the barbie, etc. His target audience can really imagine enjoying a beer with him by the pool.

    While the bike-and-chainsaw thing might seem to counter the “nanny state” label, I am not 100% clear as to whom it is addressing. Furthermore, I think that the main difficulty with the “nanny-state” lay in handing easy material to PR enemies rather than a real or deep-seated anathema. A further difficulty lay in the fact that “nanny-state’ type victories are easy and help a few, whereas real gains in social justice are hard to achieve. Hence “nanny-state” gains can seem like sops. Hence, I do not think the bike-chainsaw stuff does all that much work, nor do I think it is aimed at a clear target. Chris Trotter’s mythical Waitakere man is in reality a bit too complex for such moves to be sure of meeting their mark.

    However, as I have said, under the present circumstances I think PR is secondary. Hence I would like to see more of where Phil actually stands, and policies released that are based in genuine social justice and broad commitment to the people of this country, that I would be happy for fight for.

    • loota 8.1

      Maybe the plan is to understand the man a little first, then when the man speaks a little closer to general elections, people will listen that much more. Maybe.

  9. SHG 9

    Goff’s biggest PR problem right now is that the NZ public just watched him get beaten in a fight by an effeminate gay school teacher. I expect we’ll see more of these puff-pieces about chainsaws and motorbikes as Goff desperately tries to establish some macho cred with “Waitakere Man”.

    • Olwyn 9.1

      @ SHG: I was not intending to cast aspersions, as you seem to be doing. I sincerely want Labour to win the next election. The post asked for opinions and suggestions,and that is what I have given.

  10. Santi 10

    An inane piece of writing from an inane leader. How more trite can you get?
    Labour is condemned to a long period in opposition with a leader of this “caliber”. 2020 beckons.

    • loota 10.1

      How more trite can you get?

      I suppose Goff could start imitating smiling and waving

      • Jared 10.1.1

        Buying a motorbike so you can go to the biker protest and act like you understand them counts?

        • Frank Macskasy

          That won’t be necessary: bikers already know they were truly shafted by this caretaker government by unnecessary ACC increases. No doubt they will be making their displeasure known (and felt) at the ballot box, next year.

  11. At the risk of repeating myself, National decisively beat Labour in 1975 & yet just 3 years later, Labour beat National with the party vote, because Muldoon then, like Key now, promised more than he could deliver. Muldoon, too was built up by the MSM as a demi god & a financial genius.

    Phil is keeping his nerve & going on the front foot – good to see. He needs to firstly destroy this govt’s credibility ( which won’t be difficult ) & then put forward Labour’s alternative programme
    based on social justice & equality of opportunity.

  12. Tombstone 12

    I want to see a leader that actually has the balls to say to the rich and powerful that the people, the working classes will no longer tolerate being held to ransom by those who have used their power and wealth to manipulate the system for their own gain. That it’s time we stopped palming all our work off to China at the expense of Kiwi jobs and started focusing on creating real jobs paying real wages for Kiwis here at home. The fat cats at the top have had it too good for too long and I for one have had enough. I believe that Phil can win the next election but we need to get behind him 100% and do all that we can to make people fully aware that the alternative is nothing short of bleak. Key is no more than the devil looking after his own – money looking after money, and while that may serve his kind well it does not bode well for the rest of us. And we are the majority vote when all is said and done. He needs to be put out of commission asap!

    • comedy 12.1

      [More not needed]

    • Herodotus 12.2

      So after lab assisted the wealthy to get further ahead than the rest, why should the 2011 version be any different than the 99-08 or 84 -90 versions. Lab did not change any tax treatment for those speculators in housing (Nats starting what still requires to be completed). Many average kiwis increased their net wealth by property values increasing (those that were able to enter the housing market) yet housing onwership was reduced over this period, and the debt many incurred to enter the market is crippling, just making the middle class so dependant upon paying the mortgage on a pay by pay basis.
      and remember that 50 of the rich list are so income poor that they do not even enter the top tax bracket, so why do you think that Nat are the only party playing up towards the wealthy? labour disguise their looking after the wealthy with more stealth. the end result the rich just keep on moving ahead whilst the rest of us are left pondering in the pigs swell.

    • Rob 12.3

      Tombstone, you know I would agree with this if the Nats were into their 3rd term and they were responsible for the fat cats and everything else you are bitter about. But the fact is they have been there 2 years, the previous 9 years were with Lab. So if anyone propogated these issues you know where to look.

      Under labour I saw countless manufacturing and technical roles shift off shore, only to be replaced by coffee makers, burger flippers, retail sales people and mortagae brokers, this was all great news of course as the unemployment stats looked really healthy, but our actual capability to build any sustainable local infrastructure vanished.

      Even if we have Govt change, do you really think any of the above is going to alter with a reversal of the last 9 years.

  13. Lefty 13

    It’s not just a matter of PR.

    Goff was an enthusiastic supporter of Roger Douglas and part of the cabinet that callously destroyed many peoples lives in order to enrich a few of their mates in the 1980s.

    For those who were not around at the time, be assured, this was a nightmare period of our history as the wealth of our country was stolen from us by a government elected to redress the imbalances of the Muldoon era.

    This country has never really recovered from the looting and destruction that took place at that time.

    As Minister of Employment during that period Goff presided over the destruction of thousands of jobs, while managing to blame the unemployed for not having a job at the same time.

    You don’t have to be that old to remember this – or to be one of the victims of the Rogernomics Goff delivered with such gusto. This is why some of us can never forgive him, let alone vote for him.

    Goff offers no hope, or solutions, for the working class.

    • comedy 13.1

      “Goff offers no hope, or solutions, for the working class.”

      If you’re waiting for a politician to deliver solutions you have already given up.

    • Draco T Bastard 13.2

      To be honest, I really don’t think the 4th Labour Government had any idea as to WTF it was doing. They had the inner circle of Lange, Douglas, Prebble and one or two others who did “economic things” and the rest were getting their hands dirty with identity politics.

      Basically, we got our country sold out from underneath us at the behest of the Business Roundtable due the ignorance of the politicians. We kinda hope that they’ve learned something in the last three decades (Although it should have been learned in the 19th century and then been rammed home in the 1930s – capitalism doesn’t work).

  14. Jum 14

    Goff can start by promising to return charitable funding status to National Council of Women of New Zealand who advocate for women, children and men. This government is out to crush women’s rights. Less blokey crap, Goff, and more advocacy for every person in New Zealand.

    • loota 14.1

      Oh don’t be too harsh on the poor man, the ‘blokey crap’ might just be a needed PR ingredient to help Labour’s image (no more no less). After all unless Labour actually gets in any promises about charitable funding status for anything won’t be worth the paper they are written on.

      • Jum 14.1.1

        Ah, but Loota, it lets the female body politic know he has remembered their choosing nact last election and understands they are losing patience with governments that forget women are half the voting population. I would like to see the gender breakdown of the popularity for key.

        • loota

          Are you referring to Helen Clark’s 3 terms as part of those “that forget women are half the voting population. “? Perhaps its your particular perspective, but I don’t see that that happened.

          Key took a very soft and considered stance to win over the female vote. None of the usual right wing rhetoric about cutting civil service jobs, cutting welfare, having a go at bennies etc. He cranked up the charm and the smile instead at the same time as toning down any hint of free market aggressiveness and got National a huge swing amongst female voters IIRC.

          • Jum

            I think that Helen Clark was the best PM but she was attacked on everything she did, said or even thought, simply because of her being female. New Zealand society is still unevolved in that both men and women cannot deal with women leaders in public life or in the home.

            Key and Co’s blatant lies and misleading barrages followed the line ‘keep repeating it and eventually everyone was brainwashed into believing it’. They’re doing that now with the constant refrain in Parliament blaming Labour in order to cover up National’s weakening of the Kiwi mana.

            Kiwis will eventually realise that NAct need them to have low wages in order to encourage overseas takeovers/investments/privatisation of New Zealand. The low wages will remain, but Kiwis will be so beaten down they will not have the strength to fight back.

            Labour/Greens need to defend workers over the next year and Labour must ensure they renew their loyalty to the dignity of working people, female and male by reinstating basic human rights removed by this government in such a short time it’s frightening.

            The work being done now to publicise all the mistakes NAct are making, reminding Kiwis of the successful Labour initiatives that NAct are trying to take credit for is great. There’ll be a lovely long list by election 2011.

            Loota, with your second paragraph you almost make me lose hope that women have a brain! Just as well Clark proved that on women’s behalf.

        • Puddleglum

          And, Jum, as Gordon Campbell argues, there’s a steady stream of government decisions that have shown no consideration for the reality of many women’s experiences.

          It’s an issue that needs highlighting – if only to embarrass the ever-anxious-about-his-popularity Key to attempt to shore up the ‘women’s vote’ with at least some minor pro-women announcements.

          On Goff’s ‘blokeyness’ angle – and Key’s ezy-ozy, I’m just a kinda ordinary person persona – I’ve often thought that many people see through blatant PR but then support the person who pushes it as a kind of vote for the discourse being used. That is, they don’t get ‘sucked in’, necessarily, – though no doubt some do – but they, in effect, show their support for the discourse.

          If nothing else, doing that helps promote the discourse in the media and in tea rooms around the country which, I think, some people find reassuring and very useful in their daily lives. That is, they can use the normative discourse (e.g., about how ‘terrible’ political correctness is and how its taking over the world, blah, blah, blah) in their lives to advance their interests and do so in the full knowledge that it has the weight and power behind it of being the dominant, widely and uncritically accepted discourse. As Chomsky repeatedly points out, if you’re arguing a position in line with the dominant discourse you don’t need to provide any further justification for your stance – it has the almost coercive effect of shutting down opposition.

          The fact that the reality often isn’t in sync with the discourse (e.g., Key is not ‘ordinary’, Goff is not a bloke) annoys those who think language SHOULD refer to reality.

          But, the ‘reality’ is that discourse does its own work in the social world, irrespective of reality. I think many voters vote in line with the discourses they like/prefer – and part of the reason for that, perhaps whether or not they realise it, is that, if it achieves dominance in society, it provides them with powerful tools in respect of the projects they are pursuing in their own lives (material, social, interpersonal, etc. projects).

          In summary, it’s good to have the dominant discourse on your side. (Of course, it’s also not good to have reality against you – and there’s the rub, especially when the two work against each other.)

          Anyway, that’s how I console myself when I start to think that the majority of people are too thick to see through a PR projection that has the opacity of window glass.

  15. Santi 15

    Is this the same Phil Goff who is leaving the door open to an alliance with the utterly corrupt and xenophobic Winston Peters? Jeepers.

    • Jum 15.1

      Santi 15
      16 August 2010 at 8:33 am

      Is this the same JOHN KEY who is leaving the door open to an alliance with the utterly corrupt and xenophobic Winston Peters? Jeepers, sleepers, “brothel creepers” (Key at a girly club). Key did it first and after the garbage and lies he and his gang of cut-throats told about Peters…what a puffy, flaccid merchant banker money-mercenary Key is.

  16. Anne 16

    Goff’s sound bites on TV don’t hit the right note for the reasons outlined by Shona. His speech is stilted, and he tries to say too much. Don’t confuse Joe and Mary Bloggs with the analytical stuff. It turns them off. He needs some better professional advice on how to pitch his voice and mannerisms when in front of the cameras.

    • Jum 16.1

      As long as it’s not Crosby Textor that rip out your self and replace it with the universal Lord Ashcroft speak. i.e. Key, Cameron, Abbott… lie, lie, lie, and deny “we would love to see wages drop”.

      Of course, Crosby and Textor’s job was a lot easier with Key; there was little to change.

  17. Sean 17

    Yep, much like John Key’s position,

    “Prime Minister John Key has left the door open for a deal with Winston Peters if he returns to Parliament despite vowing at the last election that he would not have the NZ First leader in a government he headed.

    Mr Key said National would decide whether to rule NZ First in or out of possible talks if it won seats at the 2011 election once Mr Peters had “formally” announced whether he was standing.”


    That’s MMP for you. If a party gets enough votes, it has to be considered in coalition discussions. It all depends on how poisonous it ultimately is.

  18. Phill has to get out to the people who should and will vote for us. Its important that he is seen at workers rallies and marches. Please must be seen! He and our spokepeople must get out to the underprivileged ,ie. solo mums and most importantly the unemployed. These are the people who should vote for us .The job is getting them out!this is what Phill must do and the sooner he starts the better the result. The unions must also get very involved and help Phill get the publicity he needs,Lets get going ,election next year. Also we need to get all our people out to win the Auckland election. A win for the Left is a win for Labour and Phill Goff.!

    • Carol 18.1

      Hasn’t Goff been getting out & about and going to demos etc? He was at the anti-mining schedule 4 demo in Auckland a while back, I heard one report saying he was at the demo yesterday in South Auckland about the
      need for alcohol reform:



      I had half an eye on the TV3 news last night, and don’t recall seeing/hearing Goff mentioned in the coverage of the protest. Did TV3 ignore Goff’s presence?


      Can’t get the video to play.

      I think the problem is not with Goff getting out and about, making statements & opposing the government, it’s in getting his messages into the media. This may be due to Goff’s poor delivery, as some above have suggested, or in the way the media ignores and/or covers him (as Goff suggested on The Nation), or a mixture of both (which is closest to my view on it).

    • Jum 18.2

      You’re right, Pinkpostman.

      We need people power born of the sure knowledge that if this cretinous crowd return to government again in 2011 everything we own and have any rights to will be gone. Our costs for services and food will rise, profits will go offshore, our land will be gone (this pussyfooting around with the farmland is just delaying the unchanged intention to sell off to foreigners or NZ wealthy vultures who live outside NZ but try to manipulate our elections towards the extreme right). Kiwibank will be sold because Key and co have no respect for most Kiwi’s need to have their own bank.

      PPP = Privatisation, privatisation, privatisation

      of Kiwi-owned assets which this government has no right to sell. If they are voted in they will take that as a mandate to sell our assets, no matter what lies they tell before the election. Legislation has been passed already to weaken the rights and safeguards we have to control what happens to our assets in Auckland.

      Lower taxes mean less income which suits the intention of this government to start charging for all the services like hospital care and reasonably free education. The profits go private – there is no advantage to Kiwis to have social good assets privatised.

      People power does not cost money, only a need to return good government, tinged with green grass and brown earth (not the dirt of the Maori Party but the earth of Maori).

    • Jenny 18.3


      The unions must also get very involved and help Phill get the publicity he needs

      The unions are having a big publicity rally this weekend. Quid Pro Quo, I am sure that they would let Phil have all the publicity he can handle, if Phil Goff appears on their platform with them and especially if Phil uses the opportunity to make a clear statement that a Labour administration will repeal all of Key’s attacks on workers rights. In this circumstance I am sure that Phil Goff will get the unions support in return.

  19. taskmanCee 19

    Constructive comments only.. okay, yet first a question.. why did Phil Goff buy a Stihl..?

    Was it for like the most recent ad says because he will not need another..

    My guess is that it was, whether he took the ad or not. And that is good. Constructive, in the sense that elected leaders would have no time whatsoever for such workhorses yet heaps of time for getting back to quality choice/s later on.

    Yep, buy quality.. everytime.

  20. swimmer 20

    Phil, don’t listen to all these people trying to stick their oars in, you’re fine as you are. You have gotten far being yourself and will continue to be successful. You should speak in any way that comes naturally to you, NZers are not too stupid to understand you when you speak at your normal speed and register. The last thing you want is a voice that is stuck low in your chest with its natural resonance deadened by being placed lower than it wants to sit. You only need to breathe from the abdomen if you are shouting and putting stress on your voice, otherwise your breathing should be fine looking after itself.

    Just be yourself, you can’t please everybody and you’re intelligent enough to make your own choices.

  21. swimmer 21

    As someone who has acted a lot – no one likes to be micro-directed – it kills performance and spontaneity. Contrived comments about build up and stuff – I’m sorry is Phil a meat puppet?
    I found him a delight to watch on Goodmorning precisely because was presenting himself in the way that came naturally to him. Some would have him replace his natural personality with something artificial that is imposed by people who have no right telling him what to do.

  22. swimmer 22

    p.s. I have always thought that Phil had an exceptionally nice sounding voice. Trying to force it lower may spoil its naturally good sound. Why should he fit himself into some dull idea of what
    others think he should be when he’s great the way that he is?

  23. WOOF 23

    I like how you like running about in the fresh air. There must be some tasty bones lying around 🙂

  24. WOOF 24

    People are quick to criticise, but he does get results (e.g. mount albert) and let they who criticise him walk a few miles in his shoes!

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