UPDATE 12:20pm Wednesday 19 September:
Following widespread condemnation of last night’s comments detailed below, Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has just resigned as Tony Abbott’s Parliamentary Secretary, which Abbott has accepted.
At a media conference this morning, Abbott described Bernardi’s behaviour as “ill-disciplined.”
“Clearly he’s been guilty of lack of judgement,” he added.
For Abbott, whose sister is an a same-sex relationship, the issue is close to home.
“There are a range of views, but we have got to discuss these things in a respectful way,” the opposition leader realises.
Bernardi will continue as a Senator, but will now no longer be in the position of Shadow Parliamentary Secretary.
A Liberal Senator slipped to new lows during the debate on marriage equality yesterday, suggesting legalising same-sex marriage could lead to polygamy… and even bestiality.
Cory Bernardi (pictured), from Adelaide and representing South Australia, told the Senate last night that he did not support the push for changing the Marriage Act as he warned Australians of what he thought the consequences would be.
“It is another chip in the fabric of our social mores,’’ he announced. “Time and time again the same characters seek to tear down our institutions that have been built and have sustained our civilisation for thousands of years. The time has come to ask, when will it end? If we are prepared to redefine marriage, what is the next step?
“The next step, quite frankly, is having three people or four people that love each other being able to enter into a permanent union endorsed by society.”
He added: “There are even some creepy people out there – and I say ‘creepy’ deliberately – who are unfortunately afforded a great deal more respect than I believe they deserve. These creepy people say it is okay to have consensual sexual relations between humans and animals.
“In the future will we say, ‘These two creatures love each other and maybe they should be able to be joined in a union’.”
A wave of criticism followed Bernardi’s comments, by fellow Liberal, Labor and other Senators alike, as politicians rushed to condemn his insensitivity.
Liberal front bencher Joe Hockey reminded Senators talking about the issue: “This needs to be a measured and sensitive debate. People do have strong views, they’re entitled to strong views… but this doesn’t help.”
Other Senators were harsh, including the Greens’ Sarah Hanson-Young, who tweeted: “Bigotry shouldn’t be tolerated by the leadership of any party. Abbott should sack Senator Bernardi.”
The marriage equality bill is expected to be voted on today.