Candidate profile: Phil Goff

  • Breaking
  • 02/10/2011


Born June 22, 1953, Phil Goff astounded his family with his appetite for work from a very young age.

He was the third of four children, and grew up in the Auckland suburbs of Three Kings and Papatoetoe, before moving to rural Alfriston, where a teenage Phil picked up his love of motorcycles and the outdoors.

Excelling at school, he left home at 16 so he could go to university against the wishes of his father, who wanted him to take up a trade. Instead, Phil took on a job at a freezing works to pay his own way through his studies.

Phil found himself flatting with future Labour Prime Minister Mike Moore, who was campaign manager for Manukau Labour candidate Roger Douglas. Phil signed up to the Labour Party – still only 16 – and worked on the successful campaign.

He says he joined the Labour Party because they were there for his grandmother, who was widowed with three young children.

By the mid 1970s he had a masters degree with first class honours in politics and law, and had quit the freezing works for a job lecturing at Auckland University, where he was employed as a junior lecturer.

After an OE in Europe with his wife Mary, he returned to New Zealand, took up a job with the Insurance Workers' Union and soon found himself standing for Labour in the Roskill electorate.

Career in politics:

Phil won the Roskill seat in 1981, aged only 28, and held it for the next nine years, through one National and two Labour Governments. From 1984, when he was elevated to Cabinet, he held a number of ministerial posts including Housing, Environment, Education and Tourism (at different times).

Labour's heavy defeat in 1990 however saw Phil out of a job, as he lost the previously-safe Roskill seat to National's Gilbert Myles.

After a short term as a senior lecturer at AUT, Phil took back the seat at the next election, and became Labour's justice spokesperson.

Phil was part of a group of Labour MPs that attempted – and failed – to roll leader Helen Clark in 1996. That same year he stood in the new seat of New Lynn, without the safety of a list spot, and won.

When Labour took power in 1999, Goff took on the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Justice portfolios. In 2005 Foreign Affairs was given to Winston Peters in exchange for his coalition support, and Goff instead took on Defence. He also had brief stints looking after Corrections and Pacific Island Affairs.

As Minister of Trade, he signed the 2005 free trade agreement in China.

Phil took over the Labour Party leadership after the party's defeat in the 2008 election. Since then he's struggled in the preferred Prime Minister polls, for a long time trailing behind the departed Miss Clark, and has had to fend off regular rumours he is planning to stand down as leader of the Labour Party before this year's election.

Notable actions:

Signing the free trade agreement with China in 2005

Voted against lowering the drinking age to 18, then against a bill to put it back to 20

Advocated the introduction of GST and university student fees

What you might not know:

In the mid 1990s Roger Douglas offered Phil the leadership of the ACT Party, but he declined. He was also approached by Peter Dunne to join United, but also turned that offer down.

Heroes and idols:

Michael Joseph Savage


"I remember just having that sinking feeling: there's no way on God's earth with this situation that we're going to be able to be re-elected." – after Treasury showed him the nation's books when David Lange's Labour took over from Rob Muldoon's National, 1984

Gaffes and blunders:

Accidentally referring to Labour finance spokesperson David Cunliffe as 'David Caygill', who was Finance Minister for Labour in the late 1980s, during a major speech.

In the lead up to the 2008 election, telling a TV interviewer, "Sure there is a prospect of defeat," and openly saying he'd be interested in taking over the party from Miss Clark.

In a sentence:

Phil Goff's dedication and hard work for the Labour cause is to be admired, but unless he can capture the hearts and minds of ordinary New Zealanders, his years of service won't count for much come November 26.

source: newshub archive

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