In our New Zealand Politics paper today, we were privileged to be delivered a lecture by the (token) leader of the Opposition, The honourable Phil Goff. Also in attendance were Phil’s office-lady, an ecstatic looking Brendan Burns (Tim Barnett’s replacement as MP for Waimakarari), and the ever-uninspiring back-bencher list MP, Charles Chauvel.
Phil’s lecture was informative as he explained to us his experience of being in Parliament as well as answering a few questions regarding Labour, the 2008 election, and the general workings of Parliament. His three colleagues sat and listened to their leader, with Chauvel popping up at one stage to pass Phil a note telling him that “he had 10 minutes left”. Phil read the note out loud and we all laughed; Chauvel and Brendan exchanged a few whispered, seemingly humourous comments – as MPs do when they’re nervous or confused.
David Garret (ACT’s Law and Order man) told me that Burns is a remarkably nice man to work with in Parliament – so despite his FAIL billboard and my run-in with him on abortion at a public forum, I haven’t got too much against him; he sat bolt upright, switched on throughout the entire ordeal.
Chauvel on the other hand was his usual, arrogant self. While the other guests left their cellphones in their pockets, and their briefcases stacked near the wall, backbencher Chauvel obviously felt compelled to make the most of the indespensible 50 minute slot to get some work out of the way. He looked at – or used his cellphone several times throughout the lecture, as well as shuffling through various files from his bag, making notes here and there; catching up on office work while supposedly engaging in a teaching/campaigning opportunity with a room full of bright young, future politicians. The paper shuffling and sorting went on for well over half the lecture. Brendan, the office-lady and our lecturer shot the occasional concerned glance in Chauvel’s direction but he didn’t appear to catch on. Simply reinforce for me the fact that he’s a drain on the tax-payer and we’d be better off not having people like him in Parliament. (Click here to see some of his speeches)
Some students asked ridiculous questions such as “I really want to enter Parliament, but I’m concerned about corruption…”, or “What is the favourite part of your job as leader of the Opposition”… However, one or two asked a decent question, for instance, why had Labour passed the Electoral Finance Bill, and then been happy to vote for it’s repeal once National was in power. “Oh… we knew it wasn’t perfect when we passed it… we want to discuss a new approach with National…” (not verbatim) was the weak response.
Phil’s done twenty-five years in Parliament now – 15 years in government, and he’s currently in his 10th year of opposition. I wonder if he’s got it in him to lead the Labour party to the ’11 election.