The Australian newspaper has apologised to a former student politician over suggestions she lied when she said Opposition Leader Tony Abbott punched a wall near her head when they were at Sydney University.

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Barbara Ramjan had taken defamation against the newspaper for publishing comments by Liberal powerbroker Michael Kroger last September.

In an article in The Quarterly Essay published last September, Ms Ramjan was quoted as saying Mr Abbott “came up to within an inch of my nose and punched the wall on either side of my head” after she defeated him for the presidency of the Sydney University Students’ Representative Council in 1977.

Mr Abbott has denied the incident ever happened.

Ms Ramjan sued Mr Kroger and The Australian over claims she was a “serial manufacturer of false complaints”.

The defamation action related to comments made by Mr Kroger on the Bolt Report on Network Ten on September 23 last year and an article in The Australian the following day.

In a statement read out the NSW Supreme Court on Monday, The Australian apologised to Ms Ramjan for any suggestion she had lied.

“An article published in September 24, 2012, concerned allegations by Michael Kroger about Barbara Ramjan’s conduct in student politics in 1977 and 1978, and that of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott,” the Australian said in its statement.

“The Australian apologises to Ms Ramjan for any suggestion that she lied about those events and acknowledges that the recollection of those events was contested by all participants, who were sincere in what they recalled.

“The Australian did not intend to suggest that one account should prevail over another,” it said.