Richmond campaign gets ugly

By DALE PAGET of AAP

TWEED HEADS. ? The high stakes battle for the marginal seat of Richmond turned fiery yesterday when Labor candidate Justine Elliot clashed with Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Larry Anthony over the issue of paedophilia.

Mr Anthony, who holds the seat by just 1.7 per cent, was announcing an after-hours GP clinic in Tweed Heads with Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott when Ms Elliot ambushed the event.

"You can have your say later, don't be rude," Mr Abbott told the former policewoman.

Mr Anthony then warned Ms Elliot she could face legal action over attempts to link him to a National Party website in Western Australia which she said had been hijacked by paedophiles.

"It is one of the most heinous things that I have seen," Mr Anthony said.

"I think she has gone beyond the bounds of decency and quite frankly we are looking at whether she has gone beyond the bounds legally in this outrageous slur put on me."

Ms Elliot said the National Party's official Western Australian website, www.nationalswa.com, had hosted chat rooms that included explicit descriptions of under-age sex and inappropriate photos.

The chat room has been closed down.

"I was personally appalled by this," said Ms Elliot, who issued copies of some of the offensive postings to the media.

"Larry Anthony should be protecting children and youth, not focusing on protecting his job."

Mr Anthony said the website had nothing to do with him and he demanded an apology.

"I think this is ap- palling," he said.

"In my entire political career this is the dirtiest politics I have ever seen."

Ms Elliot refused to apologise.

n Meanwhile, the Liberal Party yesterday defended its use of prerecorded phone messages from Prime Minister John Howard, with which it is bombarding households across Australia in the lead-up to polling day.

The Liberals are expected to contact tens of thousands of households between now and Saturday, with messages from Mr Howard declaring his support for local candidates in electorates across the country.

A Liberal Party spokesman said the party had been contacting voters in this way since 1996.

However, the NSW ALP says the Liberals' use of the pre-recorded phone messages is arrogant and insensitive and has pledged not to adopt the same approach.

ALP NSW general secretary Mark Arbib said the US-style campaign tactic was disrespectful of voters.



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