Dirty Trick Marks Australian Political Campaign

posted by
Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Political Pranks

Red faces for Howard’s party over fake leaflets
by Barbara McMahon in Sydney
November 23, 2007
The Guardian

r.jpegAustralian prime minister John Howard’s faltering re-election campaign was badly damaged yesterday by a last-minute scandal in which supporters were accused of a dirty tricks campaign that sought to show the opposition as terrorist sympathisers.

Two days before the general election members of Howard’s Liberal party were caught distributing bogus pamphlets falsely linking the Labor party with Islamic terrorists. The flyers, purporting to be from a fake organisation called the Islamic Australia Federation, were posted through letterboxes in the marginal seat of Lindsay in suburban Sydney.

They suggested that the Labor party approved of forgiving the men involved in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings which killed more than 200 people, 88 of them Australian. There was a forged Labor logo on the leaflet and the phrase Allahu Akbar, God is Great, had been misspelled as Ala Akba.

Howard was forced several times to condemn the hoax flyer, calling it “tasteless and offensive”. He said it had not been authorised by the party and had not been produced with public funds.

But Labor took full advantage of the stunt, with the party’s leader Kevin Rudd saying: “After 11 years it’s clear the Liberals have nothing left to offer other than desperation, negativity and dirty tactics.”

The president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ikebal Patel, called the incident “despicable”.

Gary Clark, husband of the retiring Liberal MP for Lindsay, Jackie Kelly, and Greg Chijoff, whose wife Karen hopes to replace her, were among those involved. Both men apologised and said that their wives had not known what they were planning. A member of the state’s Liberal executive was also involved.

The hoax could not have come at a worse time for the beleaguered premier, overshadowing his last appeal to voters prior to Saturday’s election, in which he lags behind Rudd in opinion polls. “The party organisation has taken immediate action to deal with the people involved,” Howard said, referring to resignations and expulsions of those involved from the Liberal party.

“I just want the public to know … this was the unauthorised, foolish, offensive behaviour of some people who should never have done it.”

Labor’s shadow minister for infrastructure, Anthony Albanese, however, said there were more questions for the Liberals to answer. “This was an operation by the Liberal party executed with military precision and we want to know who was directing the foot soldiers,” he said.

The Australian Electoral Commission has asked for a police investigation.

A Nielsen poll for the Sydney Morning Herald says Labor has risen from from 54% to 57%, while the Liberal-National coalition, which has ruled since 1996, has fallen three points to 43%.