Labour leader Phil Goff is unrepentant about ambushing Prime Minister John Key by making a surprise visit to Australia to meet its Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday.

Mr Goff spent about 35 minutes with Ms Gillard and also met about eight other Cabinet ministers on his two-day visit to Australia - beating Mr Key, whose first official meeting with Ms Gillard is this weekend at the East Asia Summit in Vietnam.

Yesterday Mr Key said he was not concerned about Mr Goff's visit. But he indicated Mr Goff broke with protocol by keeping it under wraps until the last minute.

He said that when he was Leader of the Opposition he had always advised the Prime Minister in advance in writing when he was meeting other leaders. Mr Goff had notified him only on Sunday, by phone.

Mr Key was "relaxed" about Mr Goff beating him to Ms Gillard's handshake and did not believe he had been gazumped.

"Not really, because [the media] are here and not there and when I go to Vietnam on Friday you'll be there and not here."

Mr Goff denied he had not shown the Prime Minister the necessary courtesy. "I don't have to notify the Prime Minister of where I go. He's not my boss, he's my opponent."

He said Labour's party links had ensured he had meetings with Ms Gillard, Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd, Treasurer Wayne Swann and several other Cabinet ministers.

He spoke to Ms Gillard about Australia's economic growth and its relationship with New Zealand.

"They were amused we had made tax cuts of advantage to people at the top, where they have capped tax cuts to advantage middle- and lower-income earners. That stimulated their economy. They weren't about gimmicks, they didn't have cycleways.

"They put money into people's pockets at a vital time."

Mr Goff also asked about the Labor Party's recent election campaign and had "frank" discussions about the challenges of working in a minority Government.

The Australian ministers were keen to hear his own experiences given their reliance now on independents.