Deputy political editor Claire Trevett talks to Opposition leader Phil Goff about John Key, the All Blacks and the year ahead for Labour

Let's start with the easy one. What are your plans for the summer break?

Heading off on the motorbike, down to the top of the South Island. It's a chance to blow out some cobwebs, be with some good friends, smell the air, feel the warm breeze blowing in our faces and hoping like hell on the West Coast it doesn't rain.

You have a reshuffle looming. How extensive will it be?

We'll be looking at what portfolio responsibilities people have in the New Year. I'll be looking at how people have performed and bringing some new people forward. We've got gaps in the line-ups where people are standing down. And I'll be looking for the best people for the job who have the energy, enthusiasm and commitment and the ability to do it.

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What exactly will you be looking at to judge ability?

How their policy development has gone, how effective they've been in holding the Government to account - those sort of things. Those are the roles of Opposition.

Is there potential for Shane Jones to come back?

Oh, absolutely.

The polls have been a bit tricky for you. What message have you given your caucus?

I haven't given any message to the caucus about polls. We anticipate that in the first two years in Opposition it's always hard to get traction. You've been in government before, there's a new government, it doesn't take responsibility, it doesn't get the blame but that's changing. The appalling figures out on the economy - these weren't figures caused by the previous government.

Do you have a plan to boost your personal ratings?

Oh, I'd like to see a little more media coverage. My [unscientific] analysis of the

Herald

shows 520 pictures of John Key and 2 of Phil Goff. And in an election year I'll expect a lot more balance than that.

In terms of policy formation, where are you looking for inspiration, can we expect surprises and when will we see the results?

We're looking at active management of the New Zealand economy to perform better for New Zealanders, to lift wages and to create jobs, none of which the Government has done. We are looking at other small countries that have done so much better than New Zealand in their economic development - Denmark, Finland, Singapore, Israel - smart economies. We will be looking at skill development, at R&D, at better savings and investment track records and being a clean, green clever economy, by contrast to what the Government has done. The closer we get to the election, the more you'll see the detail, but a lot of that will be in the broad campaign period, the last three months.

Your predictions for an election date?

If the Government goes before November it will be a vote of no confidence in the All Blacks and that would be unwise, or a sign of panic that the economy is failing to deliver. So I'm predicting the election should be when it normally should be - at the end of the year.

Your prediction for the Rugby World Cup?

We'll win.

Are you conflicted in your hopes for the All Blacks, given the potential voters will take a loss out on the Government?

No, no conflict at all. I want the All Blacks to win. I don't believe we've peaked too early.

John Key has predicted you will be rolled before the election. Do you have a prediction for him?

Well, that's wishful thinking by Mr Key. [For him] that smiling and waving won't be enough to actually make a difference for New Zealanders in terms of their living standards and hopes for the future.

Do you regularly keep in touch with potential coalition partners?

I meet regularly with the Greens, I see Winston Peters quite a lot socially. In terms of the Maori Party I speak on the phone from time to time with Pita Sharples and have a very good relationship with him.

Will you be setting up a more formal, regular process for meeting with those parties in 2011?

I meet with them and discuss issues as required. With the Greens, I have regular meetings. The Greens are likely to be a coalition partner of Labour. They will see what happened to the Lib Dems in the United Kingdom and know that there's no way a Green Party can ever go with a conservative party and maintain its credibility.

Do you think Winston will be back?

I think he's got a very good chance of winning back the conservative vote that went to National who are now disillusioned with some of the things they are doing.

What should National do in Epsom?

Have the courage of its convictions. Put up a real candidate instead of insulting the people of that electorate by putting up bunnies.

Are you concerned about speculation of a new party on the left?

No, it knows it can only be effective taking a small number of votes generally from the left and helping keep a conservative party in power. The electorate is smart enough to see that.

One word to describe the year just gone?

Okay.

One word for the year ahead?

Better.

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Herald

records show that Mr Goff's photograph appeared in the newspaper 27 times last year to 110 times for Prime Minister John Key.