Three weeks ago, on 20 February, we published this item in Crikey’s Tips and Rumours section:

The Liberals have Tony Staley (the Pig Farm investigator) dusting off the crutches and becoming involved in a group, some of whom are taxpayer-funded, whose main mission in life over the next few months will be to dig up as much dirt as they can on Kevin Rudd. Abbott’s opening broadside labelling Rudd as Dr Death was just the beginning.

In the weeks since then – perhaps coincidentally but definitely with gusto – the political muck has been flying thick and fast. It started in early March with the “revelation” that Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd attended a dinner organised by disgraced former WA premier Brian Burke in 2005, and has continued unabated. The dirtfest has so far claimed the scalps of a federal minister, a shadow minister, and has deposited large dollops of fresh mud onto other prominent federal politicians from both sides.

But the chief target of the government attack dogs remains Kevin Rudd, and over the past two days those canines have included columnist Piers Akerman in the Daily Telegraph (“Rudd is an ultra-cautious politician but in claiming heart-rending memories of childhood dispossession, he may have shot himself in the foot”) and Health Minister Tony Abbott in The Sydney Morning Herald (“There’s a clear pattern to Rudd’s conduct: outraged innocence at first, then enough incriminating detail seeps out so that it’s ‘on the record’ if someone subsequently talks”).

The issue at stake for the purveyors of dirt in politics is whether or not it will stick. They are operating on the well-tested assumption that it will, but if they are wrong this year’s election could descend into a well-orchestrated mire, one that might foul the scheming accusers more than the intended victim.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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