CANBERRA: Increased security for Australian politicians has been flagged after former Prime Minister (PM) Tony Abbott was head-butted on Thursday night, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.
Abbott, who served as Australia’s prime minister from 2013 to 2015, was leaving a meeting in Tasmania on Thursday night when the alleged incident occurred.
Abbott, who remains in Parliament as a member of the ruling Liberal National Party (LNP), said he was assaulted after a man approached to shake his hand. He was left with minor injuries.
The attacker is believed to be a same-sex marriage campaigner and Abbott is outspoken in opposing the same-sex marriage.
“I turned around, there was a chap, he says ‘I wanna shake your hand’, I went over to shake his hand and then he head-butted me,” Abbott told Australian media on Friday.
“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.”
He said he would be “disappointed” if security concerns prevented politicians from mingling with the public.
Malcolm Turnbull, who superseded Abbott as prime minister, described the event as a “disgraceful incident.”
In a statement issued on Friday, Tasmania Police said they were investigating the alleged assault after a complaint was made by Abbott.
The attack has been condemned by both sides of politics with opposition leader Bill Shorten writing on social media that “violence like this is never acceptable”.
It came as the government moved to improve the security of the nation’s politicians.
In a memo sent to Members of Parliament (MPs) on Friday, the Department of Finance advised MPs to use Comcars, the official parliamentary limousine service, rather than other taxi services.
“Comcar works extensively with security agencies to ensure its drivers deliver a secure car with driver service,” the memo said.
“All Comcar drivers are security cleared and bound by the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct and Values, which ensures the highest levels of discretion, confidentiality and privacy.
“I encourage you to consider these factors when deciding on the mode of car transport that best meets your security and safety needs.” – Bernama