SYDNEY, New South Wales - Kevin Rudd has demanded election rival Tony Abbott come clean on any links to Rupert Murdoch as the mogul's key tabloid Thursday depicted the Australian leader as bumbling Nazi TV character Colonel Klink.
The Australian-born media magnate has made clear he wants Abbott's conservative coalition to win national elections on September 7, with his Sydney Daily Telegraph on Tuesday splashing with a picture of Rudd 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 its part-owned Foxtel cable TV company.
Rudd said Murdoch had said "through his own direct statements that he wants Mr Abbott to replace me as prime minister. That's fine".
But he 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.
The multi-billion dollar project is set to provide high-speed broadband to all Australian homes and businesses, with 93 per cent to have access through optic fibre.
Abbott has pledged to connect fibre only to local hubs rather than individual premises to save costs on a project designed to revolutionise workplaces and connect remote residents to doctors and online schools.
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.
The Murdoch press showed no let-up Thursday, 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.