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Phil Goff

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Phil Goff

The Honourable
Phil Goff
Goff in 2010
32nd Leader of the Opposition
In office
11 November 2008 – 13 December 2011
Deputy Annette King
Preceded by John Key
Succeeded by David Shearer
35th Minister of Defence
In office
19 October 2005 – 19 November 2008
Prime Minister Helen Clark
Preceded by Mark Burton
Succeeded by Wayne Mapp
25th Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
5 December 1999 – 19 October 2005
Prime Minister Helen Clark
Preceded by Don McKinnon
Succeeded by Winston Peters
43rd Minister of Justice
In office
5 December 1999 – 19 October 2005
Prime Minister Helen Clark
Preceded by Tony Ryall
Succeeded by Mark Burton
12th Leader of the Labour Party
In office
11 November 2008 – 13 December 2011
Deputy Annette King
Preceded by Helen Clark
Succeeded by David Shearer
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Roskill
In office
1981 – 1990
Preceded by Arthur Faulkner
Succeeded by Gilbert Myles
In office
1993 – 1996
Preceded by Gilbert Myles
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for New Lynn
In office
1996 – 1999
Preceded by Jonathan Hunt
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Mount Roskill
Assumed office
Majority 6,418 (at 2008 election)[1]
Personal details
Born (1953-06-22) 22 June 1953
Auckland, New Zealand
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Mary Ellen Goff (1979–present)
Children 3
Residence Clevedon, Auckland
Profession Lecturer

Philip Bruce Goff[2] (born 22 June 1953) is the Member of the New Zealand Parliament for Mount Roskill. During the Fifth Labour Government, in office from 1999 to 2008, he served in a number of ministerial portfolios, including Minister of Defence of New Zealand, Minister of Corrections, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control and Associate Minister of Finance.[3] He served as Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party between 11 November 2008 and 13 December 2011.


  • Early life 1
  • Member of Parliament 2
    • Cabinet minister: 1984–1990 2.1
    • In opposition: 1990–1999 2.2
    • Cabinet minister: 1999–2008 2.3
    • Leader of the Opposition: 2008–2011 2.4
      • Smacking referendum 2.4.1
      • Potential GST rise 2.4.2
      • Mining in national parks 2.4.3
    • Political career after being leader: 2011– 2.5
  • Life outside parliament 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Early life

Goff was born and raised in Auckland. His family was very poor, and his father wanted Goff to enter the workforce immediately after finishing high school. Goff, however, wished to attend university, a decision that caused him to leave home when only sixteen years old. By working as a freezing worker and a cleaner, Goff was able to fund himself through university, gaining an MA (with first class honours) in political studies at the University of Auckland. In 1973, he was Senior Scholar in Political Studies, and also won the Butterworth Prize for law. While completing his MA, he lectured in Political Studies. He also briefly worked as an Insurance Workers Union organiser.

Member of Parliament

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate List Party
1981–1984 40th Roskill Labour
1984–1987 41st Roskill Labour
1987–1990 42nd Roskill Labour
1993–1996 44th Roskill Labour
1996–1999 45th New Lynn none Labour
1999–2002 46th Mt Roskill 7 Labour
2002–2005 47th Mt Roskill 6 Labour
2005–2008 48th Mt Roskill 6 Labour
2008–2011 49th Mt Roskill 3 Labour
2011–2014 50th Mt Roskill 1 Labour
2014–present 51st Mt Roskill 16 Labour

Goff had joined the Labour Party in 1969, the same year he left home, and held a number of administrative positions within the party. In the 1981 elections, Goff stood for Parliament in the Roskill electorate, and was elected.

Cabinet minister: 1984–1990

Three years later, when Labour won the 1984 elections, Goff was elevated to Cabinet, becoming its youngest member. He served as Minister of Housing and Minister of Employment. After the 1987 elections, Goff dropped the Housing portfolio, but also became Minister of Youth Affairs and Minister of Tourism. Later, after a significant rearrangement of responsibilities, Goff became Minister of Education. In the disputes between Roger Douglas (the reformist Finance Minister) and other Labour MPs, Goff generally positioned himself on the side of Douglas, supporting deregulation and free trade.

In opposition: 1990–1999

In the 1990 elections, Labour was defeated, and Goff lost his own parliamentary seat to Gilbert Myles. While many commentators blamed Douglas's controversial reforms for Labour's loss, Goff said that the main problem had been in communication, not policy. Goff was appointed to a position at the Auckland Institute of Technology, and later accepted a scholarship to study for six months at Oxford University, but eventually decided to stand for parliament once again.

In the 1993 elections, Goff was re-elected as MP for Roskill. Helen Clark, Labour's new leader, made him the party's spokesperson for Justice. In 1996, Goff was part of the group which asked Clark to step down as leader. Clark survived the challenge, and was advised by her allies to demote Goff, but chose not to do so.

Goff retained his seat in the 1996 elections, having elected not to be placed on Labour's party list.

In Opposition from 1996 to 1999, Goff was Labour's spokesperson on Justice, and Courts & Corrections.

Cabinet minister: 1999–2008

Goff on a trip in Brazil, 2004

In the 1999 elections, which Labour won, Goff accepted seventh place on the party list, but also retained his electorate seat. In Clark's new government, he became Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Minister of Justice. He retained this position after the 2002 elections. Following the 2005 elections Rt Hon. Winston Peters was made Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Goff was made Minister of Defence and Disarmament and retained the Trade portfolio.

In 2003 convicted rapist Stewart Murray Wilson doctored and distributed a letter from then-Justice Minister Goff, in an apparent attempt to get his case reviewed.[4]

In 2005, as justice minister, he passed legislation that dramatically strengthened laws condemning child pornography and child sex.

In his Trade portfolio during the 2005–2008 parliamentary term, Goff signed the free trade agreement with China. He has been known for his like of free trade.

Goff became one of the better-known members of the Labour Party, being number four on the Labour Party list during the 2008 general election. Clark and Goff differed substantially in their economic policies, but they were able to work relatively well together, and this was shown during Goff's signing of the New Zealand – China free trade agreement.

Leader of the Opposition: 2008–2011

Goff at the Progressive Governance Conference 2009, at Viña del Mar, Chile

At the 2008 election Labour was defeated, and Clark resigned as leader. Goff was widely tipped as her successor. Goff became leader after a special caucus meeting on 11 November 2008.[5][6]

Smacking referendum

Both Goff and Prime Minister John Key have said that they will not vote in the corporal punishment referendum. Goff said that the question "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?" was "absolutely" the wrong question, and that "the question implies that if you vote 'yes' that you're in favour of criminal sanctions being taken against reasonable parents – actually nobody believes that."[7][8]

Potential GST rise

In John Key's Statement to Parliament in February 2010, the government announced its consideration of raising Goods and Services Tax from 12.5% to 15%.[9] Goff opposed the raise, saying that "GST increase will hurt families that are already struggling to make ends meet", and the Labour caucus set out on an 'Axe the Tax' nationwide road trip.[10][11] In May 2010 Goff suggested exempting fresh fruit and vegetables from GST.[12] Key called the exemption of such items "very bureaucratic" and Goff's announcement "desperate".[13]

Mining in national parks

In February 2010 a discussion document was released, proposing that 7,058 ha of land in national parks be opened up for mining.[14][15] Outside Parliament Goff told protesters that he and Labour would oppose the proposals "at every stage", and pledged to re-protect any land released from Schedule 4, should his party return to power.[16]

Political career after being leader: 2011–

Phil Goff in September 2015

On 26 November 2011 the results of the general election were very poor for Labour, which lost 6.86% of the list vote and 9 electorate seats.[17] Phil Goff stated that this "wasn't our time this time ... but our time will come again ... we're a bit bloodied but not defeated."[18] Three days after conceding defeat Goff and his deputy, Annette King announced they would be standing down from their leadership positions on 13 December, but would stay on in Parliament as electorate MPs.[19] Goff became the third Labour leader, the first since the ousting of Arnold Nordmeyer in 1965, to leave the Labour Party leadership without ever becoming Prime Minister. Goff is also the first Labour leader who was not a former Prime Minister to have led Labour as a first term Opposition party at an election since Nordmeyer in 1963.

Life outside parliament

Goff is a member of the Board of Advisors of the Global Panel Foundation-Australasia, an NGO that works behind the scenes in crisis areas around the world.

Phil Goff is married to Mary Ellen Goff, whom he met in 1971 and married in 1979. They have three adult children – Kristopher, Sara, and Kieran.[20] He lives on a 8-hectare (20-acre) farmlet in the rural Auckland suburb of Clevedon.[20] Goff's nephew, U.S. Army Captain Matthew Ferrara, was killed in 2007 during the Afghanistan War.[21]


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  17. ^ Election results, Radio New Zealand, 27 November 2011. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
  18. ^ Phil Goff speech election via TV3 (New Zealand), 26 November 2011. Retrieved: 27 November 2011.
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  20. ^ a b
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External links

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Arthur Faulkner
Member of Parliament for Roskill
Succeeded by
Gilbert Myles
Preceded by
Gilbert Myles
Constituency abolished
Preceded by
Jonathan Hunt
Member of Parliament for New Lynn
Constituency recreated in 2002
Title next held by
David Cunliffe
New constituency Member of Parliament for Mount Roskill
1999 –
Party political offices
Preceded by
Helen Clark
Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party
Succeeded by
David Shearer
Political offices
Preceded by
John Key
Leader of the Opposition
Succeeded by
David Shearer
Preceded by
Geoffrey Palmer
Minister of Education
Succeeded by
Lockwood Smith
Preceded by
Don McKinnon
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Winston Peters
Preceded by
Tony Ryall
Minister of Justice
Succeeded by
Mark Burton
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