Treasurer Scott Morrison says as a Christian he well knows the bigotry and hate speech similar to what gay and lesbian people experience.
Coming hard on the heels of a speech by Labor frontbencher Senator Penny Wong in which she predicted that a public vote on same-sex marriage would “license hate speech”, Mr Morrison tried to draw a parallel with his own experience as a Christian man opposed to same-sex marriage.
Mr Morrison told ABC radio that people, such as himself, with strong religious views who opposed same-sex marriage were also victims of dreadful hate speech and bigotry.
“Frankly people who have very strong religious views, they have also been subject to … quite dreadful hate speech and bigotry as well.
“I understand the concerns Penny is raising.”
“I know it from personal experience having been exposed to that sort of hatred and bigotry for the views I’ve taken from others who have a different view to me.”
Senator Wong, who is in a same-sex relationship and has a young family, said she was not immune from the abuse thrown her way but was resilient enough to withstand it.
But many were not.
Senator Wong isn’t opposed to a plebiscite because she doubts the good sense of the Australian people.
“I oppose a plebiscite because I don’t want my relationship, my family to be the subject of inquiry, of censure, of condemnation, by others,” she said in a speech at the Australian National University overnight.
“I don’t want other relationships and other families, to be targeted either.”
Words weren’t the only weapons wielded by some of those who harbour animosity towards gay and lesbian people, she said.
“Assaults and worse are not unknown in Australia, even today.”
Mr Morrison said he respected Senator Wong’s concerns and was sensitive to the issues, and argued a plebiscite was a sensible process because MPs on either side of the debate could not represent the views of everyone in their electorates, so it was best to give all voters a say.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the plebiscite would be conducted in a respectful manner.
“The big difference, I think, between me and Mr Shorten on this is that I respect the common sense and the values and the decency of the Australian people,” he told reporters in Cairns.
“I respect the people that I serve enough to believe that they can have a civil conversation about this issue. Mr Shorten plainly does not.”
While he would vote `yes’, Mr Turnbull said he respected the view of those who will vote the opposite.
But he’s come under attack from conservative Liberal Cory Bernardi, who has criticised Mr Turnbull’s response on the ABC’s Q&A program when asked about homophobia within the coalition.
“By saying he’d had firm discussions with a number of colleagues, Turnbull gave implicit support to the claim that myself and other coalition MPs are homophobic,” Senator Bernardi said.
“For the record, I have never had such a conversation with any of my colleagues.”
Senator Bernardi said disagreeing with something doesn’t constitute a “phobia”.
– with AAP.