CANBERRA (Reuters) - A YouTube clip of Australia's Prime Ministerial hopeful Kevin Rudd as a Chairman Mao-figure in a spoof Chinese propaganda film is spearheading a guerrilla video campaign undermining the major parties' election advertising.
"Topmost politician Rudd seeks votes from eager and impressionable voteholders," the clip proclaims, as a beaming Rudd in a Mao suit smiles down on cheering supporters and Labor lawmakers holding aloft red books and flags.
"Rudd impress and frighten Australian persons with his earnestness offensive. Space travels bless Rudd with control of movements of planets and rising of sun," the clip, subtitled and set to heroic Chinese music and commentary, reads.
Rudd, 50, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat, is trouncing veteran conservative Prime Minister John Howard in polls ahead of a November 24 parliamentary election, promising generational change and education, health and labor law reform.
To attract crucial youth votes, both major parties have embraced the Internet with a slew of online campaign announcements, while voters nationally are bombarded with millions of dollars a day worth of election advertising.
But the two-minute Rudd-as-Mao clip, put together by Sydney law student Hugh Atkin and billed as a rejected Labor advertising angle, has been viewed thousands of times since its posting this week, outrating official party material.
Other videos show footage of Rudd in parliament, allegedly picking ear wax from his ear and eating it, or re-running a comedy cover of a Led Zeppelin's classic "Stairway to Heaven", re-titled as "Stairway to Kevin".
Howard, 68, has not escaped YouTube pillory either as he seeks re-election a fifth time in the face of what election pundits believe is near-certain conservative defeat.
A bobbing Howard puppet recalls, in a video titled "Search for a scapegoat", how he mounted fear campaigns against refugees and Islamic extremists to secure past victories in 2001 and 2004.
"Now it's 2007 and that time again. I need to find something special to scare the people into voting for me. I need to pull that rabbit out of a hat, I need to find the perfect scapegoat," the clip by "Killerspudly" confides to almost 50,000 viewers.
The official party Internet fare is far more bland, taking the form of traditional TV advertising without the added cost.
The conservatives are targeting Labor and Rudd's union ties and tax policies, while Labor has attacked Howard's refusal to sign the Kyoto climate pact, which surveys show is a major issue, particularly with young voters
Smaller parties are also getting in on the act.
The Australian Greens have turned to YouTube with a video of Howard in bed and sleeping amid climate change. Howard is joined by Rudd and both are said to be in bed with Australia's world leading coal industry, which is helping fuel China's boom.
Atkin, 23, who put together Rudd's Mao clip, said he would actually be voting Labor, despite poking fun at its youthful leader's carefully-guarded and presidential image.
"I'd like to see Labor win the election, but I'd like to make fun of them in the process," he told the Sydney Morning Herald.