Kevin Rudd's election rival Tony Abbott played down links to Rupert Murdoch on Thursday as the mogul's key tabloid depicted the Australian leader as bumbling Nazi TV character Colonel Klink.
Abbott spoke after Rudd went on national television late Wednesday to accuse his rival of conspiring with the Australian-born media magnate, who has made clear he wants Abbott's conservative coalition to win national elections on September 7.
The tycoon's Sydney Daily Telegraph also took aim at Rudd on Tuesday, splashing with a picture of the prime minister under the headline "Kick This Mob Out".
Rudd escalated the feud by suggesting Murdoch is using his newspapers to attack Labor because he sees the party's multi-billion dollar plan for a National Broadband Network (NBN) as a threat to the business model of his part-owned Foxtel cable TV company.
He accused his rival of colluding with the tycoon, who has said "through his own direct statements that he wants Mr Abbott to replace me as prime minister".
Rudd added on ABC television: "The question I posed through this is simple as follows: What is underneath all this?
"Is it to do with the National Broadband Network representing a commercial threat to Foxtel?
"I've seen some commentary on that and I've only just been looking back on the files today and discovered that in fact Mr Abbott's NBN policy was launched at the Fox Studios here in Sydney.
"I would like to hear some answers as to what discussions Mr Abbott may have had with Mr Murdoch on the future of Australia's National Broadband Network."
Abbott, who opinion polls show is on track to narrowly win the election, admitted on Thursday: "I do from time to time talk to Rupert Murdoch."
"Have I ever spoken to Rupert Murdoch about the NBN? No, I haven't," he added, with the conservatives pledging to connect fibre only to local hubs rather than individual premises to save money.
The multi-billion dollar project is set to provide high-speed broadband to all Australian homes and businesses, with 93 percent to have access through optic fibre.
The argument is that consumers could opt to use fast NBN speeds to download their own visual entertainment rather than pay for a Foxtel subscription.
Opposition broadband spokesman Malcolm Turnbull accused Rudd of acting "more and more like a jilted lover".
"Once the darling of the News Ltd tabloids.... Now his years of sycophancy and duchessing editors with juicy leaks about his colleagues count for nothing. No wonder he's bitter," he told reporters.
He said Murdoch was simply stating what others in the business community felt -- that the NBN was too expensive and taking to long to roll out.
"Rupert Murdoch's views on the NBN are very mundane," said Turnbull, who acknowledged he had known the ageing media baron "very well" for close to 40 years.
The Murdoch press showed no let-up on Thursday in attacking Labor, with the Telegraph depicting a dour-faced Rudd as Colonel Klink from the hugely popular 1960s comedy Hogan's Heroes, wearing a Nazi uniform and a monocle.
It accompanied a story about Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, dressed as Klink's inept sidekick Sergeant Schultz, being caught drinking beer in a German-themed Sydney bar this week with disgraced former Labor MP Craig Thomson.
The Telegraph said it made a mockery of Labor's campaign slogan "A New Way", with Thomson, portrayed as wily American POW leader Colonel Hogan, facing more than 100 fraud charges related to when he was Health Services Union general secretary between 2002 and 2007.
Thomson, who denies the allegations, was suspended from Labor and is now standing as an independent, with the opposition suggesting the meeting was about Labor securing his support in the event of a hung parliament.
Source: TNN, AFP, Aug 8, 2013