Seven weeks after losing Australia's national elections, the Labor Party is going to court charging that Liberals won control of Parliament on a "foul" -- misleading avertising.
Enraged party officials charge that an election-eve blitz of newspaper advertisements and news articles falsely stated that Labor would institute a "wealth tax" if elected, and that this publicity cost the party 12 parliamentary seats in and near the city of Sydney.
The nation's supreme court will take up the issue is February. If the court awards the contested seats to the defeated Labor candidates, it will take over the government, smashing the Liberals' majority in the House of Representatives.
Few people expect such a change will take place. But the campaign techniques complained about are an explosive issue here, and have added new fuel to the Labor drive for more comprehensive election reforms.
Labor's party secretary, Graham Richardson, complains the Liberal election sweep was due to "the union of the paid advertising campaign of Liberal lies and the Murdoch press," (Rupert Murdoch publishes morning and afternoon newspapers in Sydney, where Labor took only a fraction of the votes it anticipated.) The Murdoch papers, he says, were guilty of "scandalous editorial policy and political reporting."
Labor had considered proposing a tax on incomes over $200,000 and a capital gains tax, but well before the voting began, party leader William Hayden promised no such taxes would be introduced during the term of the next Parliament.
The seats in which the challenges are being mounted are those the government won with the smallest majorities -- ranging from 94 in one electorate to 2,404 in another. The advertising campaign against Labor was said to have been particularly effective in Sydney, where property values had jumped up to 50 percent in the previous 12 months.