The New South Wales Liberal Party registered a website in Labor candidate Kristina Keneally's name the day she announced she was running.
The Bennelong by-election was initiated after Liberal MP John Alexander resigned after he conceded it was likely he held dual British citizenship. It's a crucial battle that could see the government lose their razor thin majority in the House of Representatives, and potentially hand government to Labor.
The former NSW premier announced her candidature as the Labor candidate in the Bennelong by-election on Tuesday, and swiftly launched into campaigning mode.
Everyone is taking things very seriously. So seriously in fact, that on the same day Keneally made her announcement, the NSW Liberal party took some fairly unusual action. Domain registration records show the NSW division of the party took ownership of the website keneally.com.au at 11:30pm that night.
The campaign had always promised to be a particularly brutal one, but the Liberal party's moves suggest it may be embarking on some more aggressive tactics like those seen in the United States presidential election.
The last election saw dozens of websites created using US president candidate Hillary Clinton's name, filled with content designed to discredit her. President Donald Trump's campaign paid for one website titled "lyingcrookedhillary.com".
While these tactics are used from time to time in Australia, they aren't generally employed so directly by political parties, and it's unusual for a party in Australia to so brazenly target an individual candidate.
The NSW Labor General secretary Kaila Murnain told BuzzFeed News the Liberal party's move to register the website was "more grubby, dirty tricks from the liberals".
She said to the Liberals: "Have fun running your fake news website while we get out and talk to real people about real issues."
Domain names can often be bought cheaply on the internet if somebody hasn't claimed them before, but it's more complicated if they are already being used by another person.
When a person or organisation purchases a domain name they are actually buying a license to use the domain. That license can be contested in Australia by filing a complaint to Domain Administration Ltd.
This isn't the first time the Liberal party has been caught doing weird things on the internet. For a while they were registered domain names under the name Hermes Endakis, the villain from the 1990s children show Ship to Shore.
The NSW Liberal party was contacted for comment, but declined to respond.
Paul Farrell is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Paul Farrell at email@example.com.
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