22 Sep 2017

Former Aussie PM headbutted by same-sex campaigner

12:09 am on 22 September 2017

Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has said he was attacked by a same-sex marriage campaigner in Hobart who headbutted him after asking to shake his hand.

Tony Abbott at a media conference during the leadership challenge.

Mr Abbott said the incident happened in Hobart, Tasmania. Photo: AAP

Mr Abbott was in Tasmania to attend a Young Liberal cocktail party this evening when the alleged incident occurred, the ABC understands.

He told Macquarie radio he was headbutted by a campaigner wearing a Vote Yes badge after the man approached him, apparently to shake hands. He also said the man "wasn't very good" at headbutting but he did make contact.

Mr Abbott is in Tasmania campaigning for the no vote in the same-sex marriage postal survey.

He said his injuries were minor, and that he had a "very slightly swollen lip".

Mr Abbott said he was walking from the Mercury newspaper offices towards his hotel in the Docks area when he heard a man yell out, Hey, Tony!'

"I turned around, there was a chap wearing a Vote Yes badge, he says 'I wanna shake your hand', I went over to shake his hand and then he headbutted me," he said on radio.

"He wasn't very good at it, I've got to say, but he did make contact. The only damage was a very, very slightly swollen lip.

"I was with a member of my staff, [who] briefly grappled with this guy and then he ran off swearing his head off, basically.

"The love is love brigade aren't showing a lot of love."

Mr Abbott said the attacker told him "you deserve it" as he was running away.

Police in Hobart said they were aware of reports that Mr Abbott was assaulted and confirmed they were making enquiries and liaising with the Australian Federal Police.

However, they said, "there is a lot of rumour and speculation" and they would not comment further until they had firm details.

Meanwhile, the incident was widely condemned by both sides of the same-sex marriage debate.


Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs