The Straits Times
Published on Sep 14, 2012

Australia opposition leader denies punching incident


SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's opposition leader Tony Abbott on Friday admitted to some childish behaviour in his student days, but denied reports he intimidated a woman by punching a wall near her head.

Australia's political leaders have been subject to intense scrutiny of their past in recent weeks, with Labour Prime Minister Julia Gillard's private life in the 1990s under the microscope due to her relationship with an ex-union figure.

The spotlight has now turned on Abbott, the conservative Liberal Party leader favoured by opinion polls to win next year's election, with claims he intimidated a female student after she beat him in a student election.

A report in the Quarterly Essay said Ms Barbara Ramjan thought Abbott was coming to congratulate her when she was elected president of Sydney University's Student Representative Council in 1977.