Homophobic slurs uttered in a column almost 25 years ago by the minister now overseeing the Australian Bureau of Statistics have prompted more questions over the ABS' handling of the postal vote into same-sex marriage.
Small Business Minister and Nationals MP Michael McCormack wrote a column in The Daily Advertiser when he was editor in 1993 comparing homosexuality to “a disease”.
“A week never goes by anymore that homosexuals and their sordid behaviour don't become further entrenched in society,” he wrote at the time.
"Unfortunately gays are here and, if the disease their unnatural acts helped spread doesn't wipe out humanity, they're here to stay."
Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne hit back at questions about Mr McCormack’s involvement in the postal vote.
“Michael is not the minister responsible (for it), the Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann is,” he told the TODAY Show.
“(However) the remarks he made are quite unacceptable. I don’t agree with him.”
Mr McCormack later apologised for his comments, but remains opposed to same-sex marriage. He was the minister responsible for last year’s census and has fended off criticism of the ABS after the hacking scandal. Mr McCormack said the ABS would endeavour to ensure the vote is conducted efficiently.
When questioned whether Mr McCormack was homophobic, Mr Pyne shot back: “I don’t know, you’ll have to ask him.”
“The remarks aren’t acceptable in modern society and he should distance himself from them,” he said.
Mr Cormann has reiterated Mr McCormack's sentiment, assuring Australians the government will work with the ABS to ensure the postal vote is fairly run.
It comes as Opposition Leader Bill Shorten urged supporters of same-sex marriage to get behind the “yes case”, despite still holding concerns about the government’s postal ballot.
Mr Shorten yesterday issued a rallying call, urging people not to boycott the vote.
Shadow Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese clarified Labor opposes the $122 million postal vote, adding the he believes they could have got the job done in parliament.
“It’s what we’re paid to do. Eventually, that’s how it is going to be decided… This needs a vote of the parliament, and that will happen,” he said.
“We all know that Malcolm Turnbull, like Tony Abbott, has thrown out promises like confetti.”
Mr Albanese warned the postal vote would be divisive and spark fiery, and potentially harmful, debate among LGBTI Australians.
“This debate will be divisive, we will see homophobia out there encouraged by this debate. That is one reason why we opposed the plebiscite, but given the postal vote is going to happen, we will be strongly advocating a vote for yes,” Mr Albanese said.
Mr Pyne agreed he would be campaigning for a yes vote, and voting yes himself.
“Whether it’s binding or not doesn’t matter. If the Australian public expresses a view, and politicians choose not to listen to them, they will face the consequences at the ballot box,” he said.