NEWS

Former Australian Prime Minister Headbutted In The Face

Tony Abbott Assaulted By Same-Sex Marriage Supporter.

21/09/2017 16:47 SAST | Updated 21/09/2017 16:47 SAST
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Coalition backbencher and former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has said he was assaulted by a man wearing a 'Yes' campaign badge in Hobart on Thursday.

Speaking to 2GB radio, Abbott claimed he was approached in the street in the Tasmanian capital by a male marriage equality supporter who then headbutted him in the face.

Tasmanian Police confirmed via social media around midnight they were investigating an alleged assault on Hobart's waterfront involving a 59-year-old man which occurred at about 4.35pm.

"Tasmania Police contacted the alleged victim after becoming aware of the claims and the man has tonight made a formal complaint," the statement read.

"The man was allegedly approached by another male person, who headbutted him to the face. The man received minor injuries and did not require medical assistance."

Police appealed for witnesses to the incident that occurred on the Morrison St footpath opposite Custom's House Hotel and urged the other man involved to contact police.

Sky News presenter Andrew Bolt was the first to reveal the nature of the attack, saying that Abbott was approached by the same-sex marriage supporter, who asked the MP for a handshake, after leaving a function.

The man, who was understood to have been wearing a 'Yes' campaign badge, then headbutted Abbott causing minor facial injuries to his lip.

It is believed Abbott was accompanied by his media assistant at the time of the assault and was travelling between a lunch function he had attended with fellow 'No' supporters and his hotel in Hobart.

In the interview with 2GB radio host Steve Price on Thursday night, Abbott played down the severity of the incident but also said that it's "distressing" that there are marriage equality supporters resorting to violence.

"I think the world has changed dramatically, absolutely dramatically, and that's why its so distressing to see the boot on the other foot as it were," he said.

Co-Chair of Australian Marriage Equality, the group behind the official 'Yes' for same-sex marriage campaign, Alex Greenwich has since commented on the incident, saying "there is absolutely no place for violence in the marriage equality debate".

"There is no place for violence in this debate. This is a debate which is about treating people fairly and with respect," he told HuffPost Australia.

"Obviously, we condemn this incident and we urge everybody engaged in this debate, regardless of what side you're on to ensure that you engage in a dignified and respectful way.

"That's what the Australian people expect and that's what they deserve."

The incident caps off a tense fortnight for the same-sex marriage debate after postal survey forms began to be mailed out across the country.

While the first week of voting started out positively with rallies planned on both sides of the debate, things soon turned a little ugly after Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said he wanted 'Yes' campaigners to get out of his face, while others even tried arguing homophobia doesn't exist in modern Australia.

From there, Nationals' senator Matt Canavan told everyone worried about the tone of the same-sex marriage debate they were "delicate little flowers" and ought to "grow a spine" and prominent 'No' campaigner Lyle Shelton said he believes the widely discredited 'gay conversion therapy' should be available for children in Australia.

The furore around the question of whether Australia should allow same-sex couples the right to marry also saw former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's godson "punched while standing up for marriage equality", the organisation of a "Straight Lives Matter" rally to be held in Sydney, and the public criticism of a businesswoman who fired a contractor after they expressed their view that it's OK to vote 'No'.

HuffPost Australia has contacted Tony Abbott's office for a statement relating to the incident.