You need poke a stick at a wounded animal through the bars of its cage for only so long before you get a reaction. In Judith Collins' case, you get more than a reaction. You get the verbal equivalent of both barrels.
And delivered with a smile which invokes memories of the demonic grin on the face of Jack Nicholson's Joker in the Batman movie.
Collins has done her best to ignore Labour and New Zealand First attempts to keep the whole Oravida affair alive. This facade began to crack last week in the wake of Opposition demands in Parliament that she name the senior Chinese border control official with whom she dined in Beijing last October.
Yesterday, the gloves came off completely. In short, it was Crusher: The Return.
The reason for Collins resuming her No More Ms Nice Girl demeanour was Winston Peters. He suggested it was "crystal clear" that her pre-arranged meeting with the Chinese customs official was a serious conflict of interest that she and the Prime Minister were trying to cover up. Peters further claimed Collins had arranged to meet the official at the very time her husband's company, Oravida, was having "huge issues" getting its product through customs.
Collins told Peters he was wrong. But Peters persisted, accusing Collins of "a corrupt abuse of her Cabinet position".
That was too much for Collins. If Peters was worrying about corruption, she said he should consider "a member of Parliament who asks questions in this House and written questions to help his girlfriend in her position with a major global company".
Collins was referring to Peters' partner, Jan Trotman, who was NZ boss of a division of Johnson & Johnson. Peters demanded an apology.
He got a grudging withdrawal.
Later in question time, Collins rounded on Labour's Grant Robertson. He argued Collins was giving the impression that she went to China "to work for her husband's company and behaving in a corrupt manner".
Retorted Collins: "The only person drawing that sort of inference is a person with a mind like that member."
It was not one of her more devastating put-downs. But you got the drift.
Debate on this article is now closed.