Ex-Australia PM ‘headbutted’ amid heated gay marriage campaign

Fears that a contentious postal vote on legalising same- sex marriage in Australia was fuelling violence grew Friday after a man allegedly wearing a “ yes” badge was charged with headbutting former prime minister Tony Abbott .
Abbott , an outspoken critic of gay marriage , was campaigning for the “no ” vote when he said he was attacked by the 38 - year - old in Hobart in Tasmania state late Thursday.
Up to 15 million Australians taking part in the voluntary postal ballot can choose “yes” or “no ” on whether gay marriage should be legalised , with the results to be released in mid - November .
“ I held out my hand . He grabbed my hand and turned it into a headbutt. Now , he was , of course , wearing a ‘ yes’ badge, ” Abbott told reporters in Hobart on Friday.
“ I worry about the brave new world of same - sex marriage if this is how some of the people who are most enthusiastically working for it are behaving with such bullying and intimidatory fashion. ”
The 59 - year- old suffered minor injuries to his lip but “ didn’ t require medical assistance ”, Tasmania Police Commander Tony Cerritelli told reporters .
Police said the man , from North Hobart, was charged with one count of assault, and granted bail to appear in court on October 23 .
Abbott , long renowned for his conservative views , was prime minister from 2013 to 2015 , when he was deposed by current leader Malcolm Turnbull — a moderate who supports marriage equality.
Turnbull on Friday condemned the alleged headbutt, adding that “one incident is one too many” .
“ However, it’ s important to remember that overwhelmingly Australians are engaging in this debate respectfully and harmoniously ,” he said .
Leading “yes ” campaigner Alex Greenwich , an independent New South Wales state MP , said there was “ no room for any disrespect either physical or verbal in this national debate”.
Concern the vote could unleash abuse and homophobic slurs saw parliament pass election - style safeguards restricting campaign material that might be misleading and deceptive during the ballot period.
The incident occurred as pop star Elton John , who is performing a series of shows in northern Queensland which was devastated by a category - four cyclone earlier this year , called on Australians to embrace marriage equality.
“ I love Australia . I love its spirit , its lack of pretence, its passion . I hope it can embrace the honesty and courage that seeks gay marriage as an expression not of desire but of love , ” he wrote on Facebook late Thursday.
The postal survey is non - binding but Turnbull has vowed to hold a vote in parliament if the majority of Australians choose “ yes”.