Clearly fed up with being rubbished by Cabinet minister after Cabinet minister at last weekend's National Party conference, the Greens yesterday gave notice they wouldn't be anyone's punch-bag.
They retaliated to further mild provocation with what was, by their standards, a threat of almost nuclear proportions - a warning they might drop their support of new rules discouraging MPs from reciting their speeches in Parliament word for word from pre-written notes.
Few misdemeanours qualify for as heavy a rebuke from the Speaker as this supposed crime. Lockwood Smith was consequently almost beside himself for failing to pull up Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson for engaging in such behaviour during the Wednesday afternoon general debate.
Finlayson's speech was more noteworthy for characterising Labour leader David Shearer and his deputy Grant Robertson as the "Noel and Liam Gallagher of New Zealand politics".
Apart from the fact that Shearer plays a pretty mean guitar - making him Noel - it's difficult to picture the sensible Robertson as the tantrum-prone Liam.
Given the comparison came from a classical music buff, Robertson smelled a rat. And even more so after Finlayson revealed that apart from the conference, his weekend had included listening to hours of Wagner in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra's rendition of one of the famous composer's works.
Robertson asked Finlayson to name the Gallaghers' band. "Oasis," replied Finlayson without hesitation. Reliable sources, who spoke on strict condition they were not identified, later confirmed that the jangling guitar epics from (What's The Story) Morning Glory? could often be heard emanating from the minister's computer along with the works of Coldplay, Queen and, inexplicably, Britney Spears.
Though being no mean musician himself, the Speaker was so remorseful for failing in his duty that he felt obliged to allow Greens' co-leader Russel Norman to read his speech for the sake of fairness.
Once Norman had finished, Smith warned he would not tolerate any repeats. This only succeeded in drawing Kennedy Graham, one of Norman's colleagues, to his feet.
Graham, the brother of former Justice Minister Doug Graham, is arguably the most mild-minded MP in Parliament. But he was so incensed by the Speaker's interpretation of the report by the parliamentary committee reviewing standing orders that he threatened to withdraw the Greens from the "consensus" surrounding its findings.
Next up in the debate was New Zealand First's Tracey Martin who had come down to the House with what looked suspiciously like a fully-written speech. She tried to avert her eyes from the text but her delivery clearly suffered, prompting another plea to the Speaker.
"I think she needs to read it," declared National's Tau Henare. Smith's silence suggested he'd already decided on leniency on this occasion.By John Armstrong Email John