Campbell interviews Goff

This is a few days old now, but the Gordon Campbell interview with Phil Goff is worth a read. Some extracts:

Hang around in the leadership of National or Labour long enough, and chances are you will become Prime Minister. Don Brash, Bill English, Jim McLay, John Marshall – in the last 40 years, you can count on one hand the major party leaders who haven’t ended up running the country, and they’ve all been Tories.

History then, would seem to be on ’s side. Yet despite his long ascent – he was a Cabinet Minister eleven years before John Key joined Merrill Lynch – the public still seems to lack a strong sense of his identity.

That is an interesting comparison – a Minister 11 years before Key started work at Merrill Lynch. Goff by 2011 will have spent 75% of his post univerisyt life as an MP.

The point Campbell makes about not having a strong sense of Goff’s identity is basically the same as I made a few weeks ago – people want to know more about who Phill Goff is, and what he believes in.

Only part of this (admitted) image deficit can be attributed to the daisy chain of personas that Goff has gone through, each one with indefatigible sincerity, on his way to the top. From student radical to fervent Rogernome to faithful lieutenant of Helen Clark and Michael Cullen, Goff has been a fount of boundless, and fairly imposing, pragmatism. He just never stops.

Goff voted to lower the top tax rate from 66c to 33c and then to increase it again to 39c. What does he really think the top tax rate should be?

Campbell: If you’re not an ideologue, people can still validly say that you’re something of a chameleon. You were a student radical, you became an enthusiastic Roger Douglas supporter, and now you’re mainstream centre left. Does Phil Goff have an identity problem ?

Goff : No. Was it Keynes who said that when accused of changing his position he said ‘Yes, the facts disproved what I used to do, so I changed my mind.’ What do you do ? I think that’s a very appropriate response. My value system, I don’t think, has changed a great deal. Go back and read my Youth Reports, as president of the Labour Youth Movement, to conference.

A chocolate fish for the reader who can find and send me those reports!

Yeah, I’ve changed some of my ideas. Muldoon helped me a lot. He changed my idea of wage/price/rent/profit fixing, rather than allowing the market to determine these things. And protectionism. I don’t believe those things as a means to an end anymore. I also believe that in the current crisis the concept of the self regulating market – which I have never promoted as a concept, myself – has equally been disproved. The truth lies somewhere in between. I believe in the market mechanism, but I don’t believe the market mechanism provides fairness, as an outcome. Nor does the unregulated market always provide the outcome you’re looking for

Nice that Muldoon was good for something.

Campbell : So back then, where were you when it came to the December 17, 1987 package that caused such a ruckus in the Lange government ?

Goff : I wasn’t in the notorious photo, you might recall. I was pretty much focussed on the portfolio responsibilities I had.

Avoiding the question of how he voted in Cabinet on it.

Campbell : So to be clear – on the social outcomes, you thought that Douglas was wrong ?

Goff : I have never wavered from my view – and I ended up as Minister of Education, inheriting Lange’s portfolio, ironically – or from Fraser’s view, that the goal of your education system is to ensure that every child, regardless of what part of the society he or she comes from, can achieve to their full potential.

This is from the Education Minister who introduced non-trivial tertiary fees for students?

Campbell : So in what ways would a Goff government differ fom what we got from the last Labour government? Presumably. it would be more than Helenism with a Y chromosome.

Goff : I was entirely comfortable with what the last Labour government did. As I say, there were a number of things with political implications that we misread. I think we misread what the impact of section 59 would be. It wasn’t that the decision was wrong – it was that decision was always liable to be heavily exploited [to argue] that this is a nanny state government. I’m not sure that the positives we created…(pauses) I voted for the change, and don’t apologise for voting for that change. It has not done what the opponents of it said it would do.

In other words, we did nothing wrong.

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