Australia

Tony Abbott head-butt: 'No same-sex marriage link'

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia, 04 September 20 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Tony Abbott has described how he was assaulted in Tasmania

A man charged with head-butting former Australian leader Tony Abbott says the incident was nothing to do with the same-sex marriage vote.

Mr Abbott says he was assaulted by a man wearing a "vote yes" badge on Thursday in Hobart, Tasmania.

The politician is a prominent opponent of same-sex marriage, which is being voted on by Australians at the moment.

But Hobart DJ Astro Labe told Australian media that his actions were unrelated to the debate.

The 38-year-old said he was an anarchist who head-butted Mr Abbott "because I didn't think it was an opportunity I'd get again", the ABC reported.

He also told the Hobart Mercury that it was "personal hatred" for Mr Abbott that motivated the attack.

Thursday's incident came as Australia holds a two-month poll on whether to allow same-sex marriage - an issue which has prompted fierce debate.

'Liverpool kiss'

Mr Abbott, who was left with a swollen lip after the incident, had described it as "politically-motivated violence" and suggested it showed how nasty the discourse had become in recent weeks.

He said his attacker claimed: "You deserve it because of what you've said."

"It was very disconcerting to find that the Love is Love brigade, or at least someone who was advocating a "yes" vote, should under the guise of shaking your hand actually give you a so-called Liverpool kiss," he told Sydney radio station 2GB.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The politician, depicted here by a street artist, has spoken out against gay marriage

Mr Labe told the Hobart Mercury that it was a coincidence he was wearing a "vote yes" sticker, saying he had it "purely because a friend of mine had walked past handing them out and had stuck one on my jacket".

The attack dominated Australian news on Friday, with both sides of politics and marriage equality campaigners condemning the incident.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said earlier there was "zero tolerance" for violence and disrespectful conduct.

Alex Greenwich, the co-chair of Australian Marriage Equality, was also quick to denounce the incident.

"There is absolutely no place for violence in the marriage equality debate," he wrote on Twitter. "This is about treating people fairly and with respect & dignity."

Tasmania state police say they have charged a 38-year-old man with common assault. He has been granted bail and will appear in a local court on 23 October.

Last week, a man was charged with punching the godson of former prime minister Kevin Rudd in a dispute over same-sex marriage.

The results of the postal survey, due in November, could prompt a non-binding vote in parliament.

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