Australia: Howard election campaign hit by dirty tricks scandal


JF-Expert Member
Feb 11, 2007
Howard election campaign hit by dirty tricks scandal

See the fake leaflet (pdf)

Barbara McMahon in Sydney
Thursday November 22, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

The husband of the Australian Liberal MP Jackie Kelly is captured distributing fake election flyers purporting to be from an Islamic group calling on people to vote for the opposition Labor party. Photograph: Australian Labor party/EPA

The election strategy of the Australian prime minister, John Howard, was in turmoil today after members of his Liberal party were caught red-handed in an inept dirty tricks campaign.
Bogus flyers from a fake organisation called the Islamic Australia Federation were distributed through the letterboxes of voters in a marginal seat, claiming the Labor opposition sympathised with Islamic terrorists.

The leaflets referred to the men imprisoned for the 2002 nightclub bomb attacks in Bali, which left more than 200 people dead. The flyers also claimed Labor support for the building of new mosques in the area.

Howard has made it clear the stunt was not authorised by his party, but the damage has been immense. With only two days to go before the country goes to the polls, it overshadowed the prime minister's final rallying call to voters today asking them to trust him with Australia's future.
A team of Labor officials found five men posting the clumsily printed flyers - the phrase Allah Akbar, God is Great, had been misspelled as Ala Akba - through letterboxes in the early hours of the morning.

The members of the Liberal party involved in the deed, in the key marginal seat of Lindsay, near Sydney, included the husbands of a retiring candidate and her replacement. They said later that their wives had not been aware of what they were doing.

The Australian Electoral Commission said it would set up an inquiry and police were being asked to investigate whether the group had committed a criminal offence by appealing to anti-Muslim sentiment.

Howard said the leaflets should never have been distributed and called the material "tasteless and offensive," but the spectacular own goal was seized upon by the Labor leader, Kevin Rudd, who is leading in the polls.

"After 11 years it's clear the Liberals have nothing left to offer other than desperation, negativity and dirty tactics," Rudd said in Brisbane.

The president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ikebal Patel, said the incident was "despicable".
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