Liberal senator Cory Bernardi has been forced to resign as shadow parliamentary secretary to Tony Abbott following his remarks linking gay marriage to bestiality.
The Opposition Leader said Senator Bernardi had made “one mistake too many”.
In his place, Mr Abbott appointed Senator Arthur Sinodinos as his parliamentary secretary. He also appointed South Australian MP Jamie Briggs as shadow parliamentary secretary to families spokesman Kevin Andrews.
Mr Abbott said Senator Bernardi had made “ill-disciplined remarks” to the Senate, and had compounded the offence by repeating them on morning radio.
He said they'd had a “forthright” discussion during which Senator Bernardi had offered his resignation.
“I swiftly concluded that was one mistake too many,” Mr Abbott said.
“I've known Cory for a long time. He's a decent bloke with strong opinions. But discipline is critical. Team play is vital. And that's what Cory has had some problems with. And that's why I thought it was very important to act quickly and decisively as I have.”
Mr Abbott said the Coalition did not support gay marriage but he would not tolerate remarks which were offensive to people in same-sex relationships.
During a debate last night over proposed gay marriage laws, Senator Bernardi said legalising same-sex unions would prompt calls for more extreme changes.
“The next step ... is having three people that love each other be able to enter into a permanent union endorsed by society, or four people,” Senator Bernardi said.
“There are even some creepy people out there, who say that it's OK to have consensual sexual relations between humans and animals. Will that be a future step?”
A shadow cabinet member earlier said Senator Bernardi's remarks were in defiance of strict orders not to inflame the debate.
“All senators were asked by George Brandis, who has responsibility for the bill, to keep the tone of their contributions moderate and dignified,” a shadow cabinet member told The Australian.
“Bernardi's speech was an open defiance of the leadership's wishes to take the heat out of this debate.”
The Opposition Leader had been under intense pressure to demote the South Australian after earlier this year distancing himself from Senator Bernardi's anti-Muslim views.
Senator Bernardi boarded a flight to London this morning to attend the European Young Conservative Freedom Summit.
Coalition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull today disassociated himself from his colleague's “hysterical” and “offensive” remarks, while Labor called for Senator Bernardi to be sacked from his frontbench post.
“He's made some very offensive remarks and I think Mr Abbott should show some leadership here,” Wayne Swan said earlier this morning.
In April, Mr Abbott scolded Senator Bernardi for making anti-Muslim comments and said if he made controversial public comments again he would consider replacing him as his parliamentary secretary. “If he does it again, watch this space. But I don't expect he will,” Mr Abbott said at the time.
Source: The Australian