Tony Abbott has alleged he was headbutted by a same-sex marriage campaigner in Hobart, Tasmania, leaving the former prime minister with a swollen lip.
Abbott told Macquarie Radio’s 2GB that he was walking to his hotel in the city when a man approached him.
“A fellow sung out at me, ‘Hey Tony’,” Abbott told the radio show‘s host Steve Price. “I turned around, there was a chap wearing a ‘Vote Yes’ badge. He says, ‘I want to shake your hand’.
“I went over to shake his hand and then he headbutted me. He wasn’t very good at it, I’ve got to say, but he did make contact.”
Abbott went on to say that his only injury was “very, very slightly swollen lip”.
A staff member who was with the MP briefly grappled with the man before the alleged attacker ran off, Abbott added. The Yes campaigner was “swearing his head off” as he ran away, the MP went on.
Abbott said the assault was a reminder of how ugly the debate over same-sex marriage had become, calling it “politically motivated violence”.
“The ugliness is not coming from the defenders of marriage as it’s always been understood,” he said.
Fellow politicians were horrified by the attack, with Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz, who has campaigned against marriage equality alongside Abbott, saying that the attack should be condemned.
Labor leader Bill Shorten, a same-sex marriage supporter, said he’d phoned Abbott to check on his injury.
The ABC reported that PM Malcolm Turnbull had also contacted Abbott following reports of the attack, and had also contacted the Australian Federal Police over the incident.
But people at the Liberal Party event in Hobart that Abbott attended after the attack said that the former PM was in good spirits and didn’t seem concerned by the headbutt. He told 2GB that he had been hit during his political career before, having been punched by a psychiatric patient when he visited a mental health facility during his time as health minister more than 10 years ago.
Tasmanian Police have asked for witnesses to the attack on Morrison Street in Hobart to come forward.