The Sydney barrister who corroborated a woman's claims that Tony Abbott behaved in an intimidatory way towards her in 1977 has rejected claims by the Opposition Leader that he was put up to it by a Labor dirt unit.
And the woman involved, Barbara Ramjan, has also rejected the claims, saying the incident ''absolutely occurred'' and she has never belonged to a political party.
In his first public comments on allegations he physically intimidated Ms Ramjan, a political rival, at Sydney University 35 years ago, Mr Abbott said today he had no recollection of the event because it never happened.
He claimed the story had been dredged up by a Labor Party dirt unit and those who had come forward since were not to be trusted because they were on the other side of the political fence.
‘‘The Labor Party dirt unit is working overtime,’’ said Mr Abbott, who admitted being rude to Ms Ramjan by calling her "chairthing" rather than chairperson, but denied ever being intimidatory.
But Sydney barrister David Patch, who corroborated Barbara Ramjan's claim that Tony Abbott punched a wall next to her after she beat him in a vote for the Sydney University Student Representative Council presidency in 1977, has hit back.
Mr Patch said he had made public his recollections of those events after reading a column by Gerard Henderson in the Sydney Morning Herald defending Mr Abbott and questioning Ms Ramjan's recollections, which were mentioned an article by David Marr in the latest Quarterly Review.
He told the National Times: ‘‘I can categorically deny that I have had any contact, either directly or indirectly, with anyone in or associated with the Labor Party.’’
He said that he had rung the Sydney Morning Herald wanting to write a letter to the editor after reading the Henderson piece and had agreed, when asked, to instead write his recollections for the opinion pages.
‘‘I spoke to Barbara Ramjan about it, that’s all,’’ Mr Patch said.
‘‘My motive was Gerard Henderson’s column. Gerard Henderson treated Barbara Ramjan unfairly and I wanted to get the historical record accurate.’’
Mr Ramjan told the National Times today that the incident happened exactly as she'd described it and she had never belonged to a political party.
Mr Patch wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald that he did not see the incident but was nearby.
A scared and angry Ms Ramjan,who had just beaten Mr Abbott in a student election, told him about the incident soon after it happened.
"[Ms Ramjan] told me that Tony Abbott had come up to her, put his face in her face, and punched the wall on either side of her head. So I am a witness."
Mr Patch ran as the ALP candidate for Wentworth in 2004 but describes himself these days as ‘‘just’’ a member of the ALP. Ms Ramjan said today the incident ‘‘absolutely’’ happened and she has been telling the story for years.
‘‘It has not been something that has not been talked about.’’
She, too, scoffed at the dirt unit claims, saying ‘‘I have never been a member of a political party in my life’’.