THE self-described Hobart anarchist charged with assaulting former Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the incident had nothing to do with same sex marriage.
Astro Labe, 38, of North Hobart, said he will argue his impulsive attack on the Liberal MP was motivated his longstanding dislike of Mr Abbott.
He said he had not intended to cause embarrassment to the same sex marriage cause, which he supports.
“It was nothing really remotely to do with that. It’s just about Tony Abbott — The f***ing worm that he is,” Labe told News Corp Australia.
“All it was is I saw Tony Abbott and I’d had half a skinful and I wanted to nut the c***.”
He said he had been drinking at a Hobart waterfront hotel when he had seen Mr Abbott walk past. His version of what followed was almost identical to Mr Abbott’s.
“I was like ‘Tony, Tony’, I kind of trotted up behind him. I trotted up behind him, ‘I just want to shake your hand and just went bang. Kind of missed it. Gave him a fat lip.
The barista and bartender says he returned to the pub and had a couple of shots of scotch.
He said he would apologise for his actions when he appeared in court, but his opinions had not changed.
“I’m an anarchist, he’s an evil c***.”
Tasmanians United for Marriage Equality spokesperson Robin Banks said the perpetrator charged with the attack against Tony Abbott had no links to the ‘Yes’ campaign other than a badge.
“We don’t know this man and certainly don’t condone his stupid act of violence.”
Labe has been charged with common assault by Tasmanian Police today and was granted conditional bail to appear in the Hobart Magistrates Court at 9.30am on October 23.
Earlier today, Tony Abbott spoke out about the attack, saying he was unharmed but disturbed by what he described as the bullying tactics of some in the ‘Yes’ campaign.
“It is shock to have a fellow Australian seeking to shake your hand turn a handshake into an assault,” he told reporters in Hobart.
“Normally a handshake is a sign of trust and peace, it is a sign of two people wanting to deal openly and courteously with each other, but this handshake turned into a headbutt.
“I think it’s sad that this debate has come to that and my plea to everyone in the remaining weeks of this debate is to keep it courteous, keep is it respectful, but above all else, respect the values, the institutions that have shaped us since the beginning of our journey and which I think should continue to shape us as we move forward as one cohesive country.”
Mr Abbott had yesterday described the incident as politically motivated.
The former Prime Minister vowed to continue speaking out for his beliefs and said he would not be seeking extra protection.
“I think it is a great thing that Australian politicians mix freely with the people,” he said.
“I think it would be a sad thing if that was ever not possible and certainly it’s my intention to continue going about the sorts of things that I do as member for Warringah and as a former prime minister in as free and as easy a way as possible.”
Mr Abbott confirmed his office had alerted Australian Federal Police as soon as the incident took place.
His comments come after Malcolm Turnbull condemned the attack Mr Abbott suffered in Tasmania last night.
The Prime Minister, who is often at odds with Mr Abbott on a number of political issues — including gay marriage — has put aside political differences to defend his long-time rival.
Speaking on the Sunshine Coast today, Mr Turnbull said he had been in touch with Mr Abbott and the Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin.
While saying one attack over the survey was “one too many” Mr Turnbull said the overwhelming majority of Australian’s have participated in the vote with “respect.”
“There are 24 million of us and 16 million are getting postal surveys. Overwhelmingly Australian’s are engaging in this debate respectfully, peacefully, listening to the other peoples point of view and then forming their view,” he said.
“I have great respect for the common sense of Australians and the wisdom of Australians.”
Following the incident, Mr Turnbull said he had reached out to Mr Abbott to ensure he was not injured in the ordeal.
‘I rang Tony, I left a message on his phone and I followed that up with a text message expressing my concern firstly for his position I wanted to make sure he wasn’t too badly hurt and also I then spoke to the Police Commissioner,” he said.
“I have heard back from Tony, he has thanked me for my message and he has confirmed he has given a statement to the Tasmanian police.”
“I condemn this assault on Tony and any violence coming into our political lives is absolutely to be condemned,” he told 3AW host Neil Mitchell.
“They are not helping their case by engaging in violent conduct. They are not showing respect for others.”
Attorney-General George Brandis has also condemned the attack, saying the “deplorable” man responsible did not represent the Yes campaign.
“This was a violent criminal attack that had nothing whatsoever to do with the point of view of those of us who favour a yes vote in the postal survey,” Senator Brandis told Sky News.
Liberal backbencher Eric Abetz, who was with Mr Abbott in Tasmania, said the former prime minister had a swollen lip after he was headbutted but it hadn’t dimmed his determination to speak out.
“I was with him at dinner later on that evening, and he was in very fine form, and he will continue to campaign for the ‘no’ vote, unabated,” the Tasmanian senator told the ABC this morning.
Senator Abetz, who is also lobbying for a ‘No’ vote, said the violent incident wasn’t typical of the ‘Yes’ campaign but it highlighted the general “ugliness“ of the movement.
“This is just a bit of a harbinger of what is likely to occur,” he claimed.
Senator Abetz said the former prime minister’s reception in Tasmania had been warm apart from the one ugly incident.
Mr Abbott had been walking toward his waterfront hotel in Hobart at about 4.35pm when he was approached by a man who said he wanted to shake his hand but then headbutted him.
“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 headbutted me.
“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.
Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne said no one should be attacked for having a different view on marriage and it must have come as a nasty shock for Mr Abbott.
“It is an un-Australian thing to do and I hope that Tony is okay,” he told the Nine Network.
Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop echoed that sentiment.
“Violence of any form is never acceptable,” she told reporters in New York.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten described the attack as unacceptable.
“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 Independent NSW Parliament MP Alex Greenwich also slammed the attack.
“There is no room for any disrespect either physical or verbal in this national debate,” he said.
Originally published as Abbott’s ‘headbutt attacker’ speaks