The 38-year-old man Tasmanian Police have charged with headbutting former prime minister Tony Abbott has said the incident had “nothing to do with marriage equality.”
On radio station 3AW on Thursday, Abbott alleged he was walking from the office of a Tasmanian newspaper to his hotel in Hobart when a man wearing a “vote yes” badge yelled out “Hey Tony!” and asked to shake his hand.
“I went over to shake his hand, and then he headbutted me. He wasn’t very good at it, but he did make contact. The only damage was a very, very slightly swollen lip,” he said.
Police said Abbott had received minor injuries and they’d charged a man with common assault. He was granted conditional bail and would appear in Hobart Magistrates Court on October 23.
Abbott described the incident as “politically motivated violence” and seized on it to claim it as an example of “how ugly this [same-sex marriage] debate is getting.”
But the accused, identified as Hobart DJ and self-identified “anarchist” Astro Labe, told the ABC a friend had coincidentally put a same-sex marriage badge on him and the violence had “nothing to do with marriage equality.”
“I must state in no uncertain terms that this has nothing whatsoever to do with marriage equality,” Labe said.
“For all intents and purposes legally I’m remorseful… This was nothing to do with the Yes campaign, I’m not a campaigner, I’m a lone anarchist that felt the need to headbutt Tony Abbott because I didn’t think it was an opportunity I’d get again.”
The attack was widely condemned across the country, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull slamming it as “disgraceful”.
The Equality Campaign condemned the violence and said all political campaigns were confronted by “people who do not represent anybody, who do stupid things”.
“The terrible truth is these incidents from the fringe of both sides are literally nothing to do with what’s going on in the country at large,” executive director Tiernan Brady said.
Tasmanians United for Marriage Equality spokesperson Rodney Croome said the violence was “beneath contempt”.