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
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.