i still remember the day i first met hon phil goff. it was 27 october 2001, and i was at an all day symposium organised at the university of waikato. the symposium had been organised as a result of 9/11 bombings, and in response to a very left-wing forum that had been held a few weeks previously.
the whole day had been one of muslim-bashing, with one speaker after another criticising muslim states and presenting a wholly one sided view of the muslim world. this was the day i first heard (or indeed heard of) mr paul buchanan. i can assure you that he wasn't the reasoned person that he is today. on that day, he told us that the only reason america had been bombed was because they were too nice. the soviet union used extreme torture techniques, and no-one would have dared to bomb them. but the americans were weighted down by all these human rights concerns internally, which stopped them being as brutal as they should have been. had the CIA been as brutal, america would have been spared. i kid you not, he carried on in that vein for a good 40 minutes.
we also had to hear from hon max bradford (the ex-national minister that left us with the mess the electricity industry is in now) and the first secretary from the american embassy. there were various other speakers, and all in a similar vein. i won't go into more of the nastiness, there isn't much point. let's just say that it was a thoroughly depressing and difficult day.
then, around 2.30pm in the afternoon, our newly appointed foreign minister entered the room, and he was like an oasis in the desert. there was so much common sense and balance, such a lack of hatred and bigotry. when someone questioned him about the palestinian situation, he got up and said there would be no hope for peace in that region until the building of illegal settlements stopped completely.
i was already a fan of mr goff before that day, mainly because he had had the courage to personally visit yasser arafat, as our foreign minister, even though he was put under severe pressure by ariel sharon. it showed he was a man of courage and conviction, someone who was able to see both sides of an issue and who had a strong sense of fairness and social justice.
nothing i've seen him do since that day has changed my opinion of him. in fact, another memory i cherish is a half-hour i spent talking to him one morning, about 2 years ago. it was such an interesting conversation, and no, i won't be telling you about anything that was said. but the impression i got was of someone with strong principles, who was very confident and focused.
i'm thrilled that he's become the leader of the labour party. if he's a little to the right, so be it. his "right" is very much to the left of the national party, and that's good enough for me.
hon annette king i only met this year. but i've been a fan of hers too, for a long time. i most admire her work as the minister of health, taking on the medical establishment in order to implement the primary health care strategy. making doctors visits and prescriptions affordable for all nz'ers is one of the 5th labour government's best and most effective policies. as minister of police and minister of justice, she has been doing a great job, particularly when it comes to issues of concern for women. and watching her in the house, as i have for the past couple of years, no-one can doubt her strength and abilities. i've yet to see anyone get the better of her.
this is supposedly labour's "tired" and "uninspiring" team. well, all i have to say to that is bollocks. if you're not inspired by these two, it's because you don't know much about them and what they have achieved for this country. in every portfolio either of them have held, there have been significant and lasting gains. i'm looking forward to helping them back into government in 2011.