Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Phil Goff clocks out of Parliament speaking of first love and lessons learned

Phil Goff has drawn the curtain on his 35-year career in Parliament with a valedictory which included adventure, suspense, disaster, a touch of comedy, a moral, and even romance - albeit for a ministerial portfolio rather than his wife.

Goff's long career in Parliament traversed the snap election called by Robert Muldoon, Rogernomics, the nuclear free legislation, the September 11 attacks, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He recalled the giddying excitement of Labour taking the Government benches in 1984 - and the reality check when Cabinet was told the country was broke.

It led to the Rogernomics reforms. "We took the tough decisions, most of them I believe right, some of them wrong."

He also held up the collapse of that Labour government following the 1987 election as a stark lesson to all on the perils of disunity.

He recalled being a newly fledged 31-year-old minister in charge of the housing portfolio in 1984 and announcing the end of all state house sales - to the horror of the finance ministers.

The housing portfolio also provided the romance in his speech.

"Your first portfolio is like your first love," he said before remembering his wife Mary was in the public gallery.

"Not quite as good as your first love, I should have said. I've had many portfolios, but I've only had one wife. And she'll be pleased to know that."

As a Foreign Affairs and Defence minister in the 2000s Goff recalled being dropped at home late at night on September 11, 2001 and getting a call from his driver to tell him to turn on the television - the attacks on the World Trade Tower had just taken place.

Goff said he was proud of the decision to send troops to Afghanistan but worried about soldiers dying.

He spoke of the personal toll that war had on his own family when his nephew US Army Captain Matthew Ferrara was the first New Zealander killed in Afghanistan in 2007.

Goff also spoke about the China free trade agreement he had helped secure as Trade Minister, saying it had helped stave off recession for New Zealand.

Goff is widely regarded as being one of Labour's right-wingers - and was the only MP given an exemption to support the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

However, he made it clear he was Labour through and through.

He spoke of the changes Labour governments made to New Zealand - from being a small boy on his grandmother's knee "who grew up thinking Michael Joseph Savage was a saint" to the nuclear free legislation to the Labour Government's decision not to join the war in Iraq.

Despite that background, Goff didn't waste the chance to use his speech in a pitch to the National Government for his new kingdom - Auckland.

He finished his speech by telling Cabinet ministers this would not be the last they saw of him.

"For New Zealand to succeed - Cabinet ministers this will not be the last time you hear this - Auckland needs to succeed."

He even pulled Key into an awkward hug at the end of his valedictory.

In 2011, Key had demolished then Labour leader Phil Goff in an election debate with the phrase "show me the money".

Goff's election as Auckland's mayor finally gives him the chance to turn the tables.

He'll be back, and this time it is Goff who will be saying "show me the money".

- NZ Herald

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