Godson of Australian politician 'punched in the face' by man tearing down rainbow flags, amid divisive same-sex marriage vote
The godson of Kevin Rudd was punched in the face during a confrontation with a man who was tearing down rainbow flags at a bus stop in Brisbane, according to the former Australian prime minister, who blamed a divisive vote on same-sex marriage for the attack.
The former Australian Labor Party leader uploaded a photograph of 19-year-old musician Sean Foster’s bloodied face to Twitter on Wednesday and lashed out at conservative prime minister Malcolm Turnbull for allowing the divisive postal survey, which started on Tuesday.
“So many warnings to Turnbull about what this postal vote could unleash,” Mr Rudd wrote. “Now my godson Sean has been punched while sitting at his bus stop, for objecting when a man began ripping down rainbow banners and hurling verbal abuse.”
News of the alleged attack came as Australia’s parliament passed emergency legislation on Wednesday to strengthen punishment for abuse in response to an alarming volume of hate speech during the lead up to the ballot.
Until voting ends on November 7, anyone found guilty of intimidation or threats to cause harm on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status or religious convictions will be liable to fines of $12,500 (€8,398) and a court injunction.
Queensland Police confirmed to local media that they were investigating an incident at a bus stop on Tuesday in which a 19-year-old man suffered a cut to his forehead after he was allegedly punched by a man yelling profanities.
Same-sex marriage lobby group Bulimba 4 Marriage Equality, which produced the rainbow flags, appealed for help on Facebook to identify the suspect, describing him as caucasian, 185cm and “quite large with a beer belly”.
The group claimed the man was yelling slurs about gay people when he looked at Mr Foster, who replied “That’s ok, I don’t like you.” The man then asked if Mr Foster was calling him a “homophobe” and when he replied “yes”, he was punched.
Co-founder Sinead Cunningham told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) she felt “horrible” the flags she put up as part of a “rainbow roundabout” had led to Mr Foster, who was not a member of the group, being assaulted.
"He's very modest about it, he's lovely,” Ms Cunningham said of Mr Foster. “He's also said 'I don't want any attention from this to cause or incite any more violence'.”
"I said to him 'of course you don't want to be labelled a hero, but I can tell you from everybody in the LGBTI community, we appreciate that there is support out there, because there definitely is a lot of hate'.”
The mining and farming-dominated state of Queensland has the lowest support for same-sex marriage in Australian and is home to all five electorates with the lowest support in the country for a "Yes" vote, according to data published by the ABC.
Mr Rudd - who was prime minister of Australia between from 2007-2010 and for almost three months in 2013 - threw his support behind same-sex marriage in a change of heart before he was ousted in the 2013 election by conservative Tony Abbott.
Mr Turnbull is backing a "yes" vote, but angered LGBTI groups by allowing the non-binding survey to go ahead amid concerns it would unleash homophobic abuse.