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AUSSIES GEAR UP FOR NASTY ELECTION CAMPAIGN

When Prime Minister Paul Keating stood in Parliament last week and mocked the opposition by blowing kisses, Australians knew they were in for a nasty election campaign.

Forget that an election isn't even due until May 1993.With memories of Keating's ousting of former Prime Minister Bob Hawke fading fast, the battle lines are clearly drawn as Keating fights to win back support for his Labor Party.

The insults between Keating and opposition leader John Hewson in Australia's rowdy Parliament are flying thick and fast as they try to discredit each other's plans to revive a flagging economy.

"They dislike each other intensely," said Malcolm Mackerras, a politics lecturer at the Australian Defense Force Academy.

Political analysts say the next election is shaping as a personal contest between Keating and Hewson rather than a battle between the Labor Party and the opposition coalition.

Hewson said he expected the government to call an early election because of cracks in its plans for the economy and the opposition would be on "red alert" for a snap poll.

Debate in the first parliamentary session for 1992, and Keating's first as prime minister, centered on Keating's "One Nation" economic package, which contained $1.73 billion U.S. of spending measures to boost the economy, vs. Hewson's "Fightback" package, which has a 15 percent goods and services tax (GST) as its centerpiece.

Last week in Parliament, Hewson accused Keating of running a dirty tricks campaign against the opposition's policies while Keating said Hewson was going "troppo" (crazy) and had a "Jekyll and Hyde" personality.

"Mr. Speaker, he's going troppo. He's more to be pitied than despised, he's simply going troppo," Keating told Parliament.

Later Keating blew a kiss to opposition deputy leader Peter Reith, who accused him of stupidity and inappropriate behavior.

Hewson has called Keating "Mr. Recession," a hypocrite, a liar and accused him of misleading the public over the state of the economy and of lowering Parliament's reputation.

Keating, who as treasurer made savage political invective an art form, refers to former university lecturer Hewson as "the visiting professor" and to the opposition's GST proposal as "a 15 percent suction pump in everyone's pockets."

Analysts say both Keating and Hewson will lose out if they continue to use debates in Parliament to attack each other.