Key Points:

The Air New Zealand fiasco is escalating diplomatically.
Prime Minister Helen Clark this morning effectively warned Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, to butt out of the domestic row going on here over Air New Zealand flying Iraq bound Australian troops to Kuwait.
She also criticised his decision to address the National Party a few weeks ago, implying that that was interference.
She scoffed at his ban on Australian Defence personnel using Air New Zealand "in any circumstances" when the next day the airline had ferried ADF personnel to Honiara.
This was a tit-for-tat response to the dressing down he gave New Zealand's High Commissioner in Canberra, John Larkindale, last week.
It is hard to recall any similar open Transtasman tension under Clark. She has been at pains to keep relations close and professional.
Clark made the comments about Downer on both Newstalk ZB to Paul Holmes and on Breakfast to Paul Henry. That indicates it was a planned attack, not a heat-of-the-moment response.
She also repeatedly the Government's view that the flights in June by Air New Zealand - revealed publicly only last week - were not "in the national interest".
As I have blogged before, Clark is entitled to feel stung by Downer's involvement in the National Party conference. But it was never in anyone's interests to openly voice those concerns, not then and not now.
Downer was entitled to respond as he did to the Air New Zealand issue - it involved Australia and the vehemence of the New Zealand Govt to the flights is rightly taken as a total disrespect for Australia's role in Iraq.
At some point soon, like today, somebody close to Clark should be asking her whether her attack on Downer is in the national interest.
PS: In case Canberra is watching, a transcript on Downer's website of a press conference he held at the National Party conference has one question beginning with "Sir." No disrespect intended, but having asked that particular question, the word was "So."