Liberal backbencher Tony Abbott was head-butted by a man he claims was a same-sex marriage supporter in Hobart on Thursday. But his tough old nut survived.
He himself admitted he only received a ‘very, very slightly swollen lip’ but the incident has made great fodder for the Murdoch media.
Mr Abbott said he was walking toward his waterfront hotel when he was approached by a man.
‘A fellow sung out at me – “Hey Tony.” I turned around. There was a chap wearing a Vote Yes badge,’ Mr Abbott told Macquarie radio.
‘He says “I want to shake your hand.” I went over to shake his hand then he head-butted me,’ the former pugilist told the radio station.
‘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.’
A staffer from Mr Abbott’s office tussled with the man before he ran off ‘swearing his head off’.
‘It’s just a reminder of how ugly this debate is getting,’ Mr Abbott said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull phoned Mr Abbott when he heard about the attack and also discussed the matter with AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin.
An Australian Federal Police spokesman said the agency doesn’t comment on ‘protection arrangements for individuals’.
Mr Abbott is in Tasmania campaigning for the no vote in the national same-sex marriage survey along with Liberal party colleague Senator Eric Abetz.
Senator Abetz said it was disappointing a yes campaigner would try to assault a former prime minister.
Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne said no one should be attacked for having a different view on marriage.
‘It is an un-Australian thing to do and I hope that Tony is okay,’ he told the Nine Network.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten described the attack as unacceptable.
‘Violence like this is never acceptable. I’m glad Mr Abbott isn’t seriously injured and I’ve rung him to say so,’ he said on Twitter.
Labor frontbencher Penny Wong said the yes campaign was about hope, respect and unity and the debate should reflect those values.
‘Violence is never acceptable,’ she said.
Same-sex marriage campaigner and NSW Parliament MP Alex Greenwich also condemned the attack.
‘There is no room for any disrespect either physical or verbal in this national debate,’ he said.
Tasmania Police are investing the alleged assault on Mr Abbott, 59, which occurred about 4.35pm.
‘Tasmania Police contacted the alleged victim after becoming aware of the claims and the man has made a formal complaint,’ it said in a statement.
‘Police would particularly like to hear from the other man who was allegedly involved in the incident and have urged him to come forward.’
Mr Abbott’s injuries were described as ‘minor’.