Tony Abbott alleged headbutt goes against the same-sex marriage respectful debate

Tony Abbott has made headlines from Tasmania once again.

This time, it was for something more serious than his onion eating habits.

It is alleged that the former prime minister was headbutted in the street, in Hobart, on Thursday afternoon.

There are unconfirmed reports that the alleged assailant was wearing a ‘yes’ badge, in relation to the same-sex marriage postal survey.

If true, and if the postal survey was the motivation behind the alleged assault, then it’s highly disappointing.

The same-sex marriage survey was always going to prompt heated debate from both the yes and no camps.

Before the ballots were even distributed, we saw heavy-handed advertisements from both sides.

But there are acceptable and less disrepectful ways to approach such debates.

A Launceston pizza shop has made a name for itself this week, by amending a “It’s OK to say no” billboard, erected on the side of its Mowbray store, to read “It’s OK to say no… to pineapple on pizza” in a nod to the almost equally fiery debate about the controversial topping.

Cheeky, but not out of line with the acts of other business owners put in similar situations.

But to reduce the debate to violence is to reduce the quality of the debate, and tar the issue.

More than that, it tars the arguments and ethics of the side that the alleged headbutter is said to be representing.

There has been so much talk in the lead-up to this survey about the need for a respectful debate.

When we thought of an disrespectful debate, did we think only of too-strongly worded billboards, and inflammatory conversations?

Sadly, it has apparently gone beyond this – it has descended to violence.

No matter how strongly you feel about the same-sex marriage survey, or Mr Abbott, violence is never an acceptable means of debate.

It can be hoped that such an apparently rash action will not incite more violence, but make society pause and take stock of where we are, and what we want this survey to achieve.

While we debate such an important point in our country’s history, and future, we must make sure we don’t lose our cool heads.