Minister Michael McCormack, responsible for the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) which is to oversee the postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage, has apologised for once believing homosexuality to be “sordid” and “unnatural”.
Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne rejected the comments, written in a 1993 newspaper editorial, as unacceptable.
Ahead of a postal vote on same-sex marriage, Mr Pyne called on Mr McCormack to distance himself from the remarks.
“A week never goes by any more that homosexuals and their sordid behaviour don’t become further entrenched in society,” Mr McCormack wrote in the southern NSW Riverina newspaper The Daily Advertiser in Wagga Wagga, where he was then a journalist and for which Mr McCormack later apologised.
“Unfortunately gays are here and, if the disease their unnatural acts helped spread doesn’t wipe out humanity, they’re here to stay.”
Mr McCormack had responsibility to oversee the ABS running of the Census, but Mr Pyne was quick to insist he is not in charge of the postal vote on same-sex marriage.
“Those remarks are not acceptable in modern society. I don’t agree with them,” Mr Pyne told the Nine Network on Friday.
Acting Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann will be overseeing the postal ballot, which will kick off next month pending two High Court challenges.
Senator Cormann says the government is open to considering legislation to allow for the usual election rules to apply.
“I’m putting this out as an offer,” he told Fairfax Media.
“If people on either or both sides of the debate believe that it would be sensible to have some rules that are enshrined in law, given that this is now happening, then I guess it’ll be a matter for them to help persuade Labor and the Greens that it would be a sensible thing to do.”
Bill Shorten has urged supporters of same-sex marriage to get behind the “yes” case, despite still holding concerns about the government’s postal ballot.
The opposition leader has rejected calls for a boycott of the $122 million survey.
Two High Court challenges to the ballot have been launched, claiming it breaches the constitution and the proper legal basis is not in force to fund it.
A hearing will be held on Friday afternoon, but the government is confident it has the legal and constitutional power for the ballot to go ahead.
If the court challenges are successful, law change advocates won’t be getting any joy from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
He says no private member’s bill will go to parliament without giving the Australian people a say, as promised at the 2016 election.
Forms are due to be posted by September 12, completed by November 7 and a result to be announced on November 15.
Voters have until the close of business on August 24 to update their enrolment details, or enrol for the first time.
– with AAP