Election 2011: Southern faithful give Goff a hero's welcome

Labour leader Phil Goff with Dunedin South MP Clare Curran at Dunedin's Meridian Mall. Photo / Otago Daily Times
Labour leader Phil Goff with Dunedin South MP Clare Curran at Dunedin's Meridian Mall. Photo / Otago Daily Times

Phil Goff was given a hero's welcome in Dunedin yesterday, with standing ovations and regular choruses of approval for his pronouncements.

The Opposition leader may have left town wishing the rest of the country expressed the sentiments of the Labour stronghold, as he made a flying visit to the city.

Dunedin South MP Clare Curran told the 150 people at the South Dunedin Community Hall about the "new poor"; working people who struggled to get by, before introducing her boss with the words: "I bring you Phil Goff and his message."

That message, which Mr Goff introduced at the Meridian Mall in George St, his first stop, and reiterated at each stop as he travelled around Dunedin, came down to the major policy platforms Labour is pushing.

An end to the idea of asset sales heads the list, as Mr Goff tries to make the most of less than two weeks he has to overhaul National's significant lead in the polls.

The meeting began with a prayer from North Dunedin candidate Dr David Clark, and the Christian theme was continued by Mr Goff, when he noted former Labour Party leader Michael Savage described Labour policy as "applied Christianity".

Mr Goff said Labour would reverse National's cuts to early-childcare education.

He promised free health care "24/7" for children under 6, so no parent would have to worry they could not afford health care because of high after-hours costs.

Removing tax from the first $5000 of earnings would add $525 a year to hip pockets, and the minimum wage would be raised to $15 an hour, a policy that proved popular with the South Dunedin audience.

Mr Goff said his party's policy of removing GST from fresh fruit and vegetables would help families make healthy choices.

But the first job for a Labour government would be to "stop asset sales in their tracks".

Government assets returned millions of dollars a year to the country, he said. "Why the hell are they flogging them off?"

Earlier at Meridian Mall, shop worker Caitlin Roberts had her picture taken with Phil Goff. Asked if she was a fan of the opposition leader, Ms Roberts said: "I am, I am. He's awesome." Diners at the mall's food court must have wondered what hit them when Mr Goff, hangers-on and a phalanx of media swept through.

- OTAGO DAILY TIMES

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