National leader Judith Collins has clashed with reporters on her way into today's caucus meeting, calling questions "stupid" - and explaining how to tell when she's joking.

In a testy discussion she explained that her comment yesterday that no one had escaped while she was Corrections Minister was merely a joke.

This was in reference to the number of people who have escaped isolation facilities in the past few weeks.

When put to her that people had escaped under her tenure – Collins said she was joking when she made the comments.


When pressed, Collins pushed back and said questions regarding how voters would be able to trust her – given she did not say at the time the comments were in jest – was "silly stuff".

But she did provide some respite as to how reporters – and voters alike – might know when she was joking from now on.

"When my eyebrow goes up", it's a joke," she said, before quipping "do you not understand a joke", soon after.

In a wide-ranging media stand-up this morning, the new National leader zoned in on Immigration New Zealand's decision to give Kurdish-Iranian author Behrouz Boochani refugee status.

Collins raised questions about queue jumping, suggesting Boochani may have been given preferential treatment.

But she stopped short of outright accusing the Government of meddling in the process to get him to the front of the queue.

Rather, she said a lot of questions needed to be answered.

"I'm asking to have reassurance for the public of New Zealand – I think that is a very important thing."

Illustration / Rod Emmerson
Illustration / Rod Emmerson

Collins said she will be asking questions of ministers to make sure Boochani was not given preferential treatment – given the list of refugees looking to come to this country is long.

"This is the time for New Zealanders to be very careful and to be very clear that everyone is following the rules."

Collins clashes with reporters over 'stupid question'

Collins was pressed at length over the issue, at one point snapping at a reporter who asked if her comments were "race-baiting".

"That's a stupid question," Collins said.

And that's not where the clashing stopped.

Collins was grilled on National comments that the most recent Newshub/Reid Research poll was a "rogue".


She said that National's internal polling was much higher - but refused to tell reporters this morning what National's internal polling was.

"I'm not going to give it to you," she said, when asked for the numbers.