Sam Dastyari Tore Into Eric Abetz Over His Historic Comments About Homosexuality

"Some of the most hurtful comments that have been said in this debate over 20 years have come from you."

As Australia braces itself for months of ~respectful debate~ in the lead-up to the postal plebiscite survey on marriage equality, New South Wales Labor senator Sam Dastyari has hit out at Tasmanian Liberal senator Eric Abetz over his historic attitudes towards homosexuality.

Both senators appeared on last night’s fiery episode of Q&A, where the marriage equality debate took centre stage. Abetz, for his part, spoke out against hateful rhetoric… particularly the kind directed at people like him.

“Sadly there are elements on both sides of this debate that will stretch the boundaries,” said Abetz, in response to a question from a same-sex couple about the horrific, hateful language that is already being employed by the anti-marriage equality campaign.

“Some of the things that have happened, for example, to the Australian Christian Lobby, I’m sure you would condemn,” he said.

When it was pointed out to the senator that some of the most negative comments of the debate so far have come from his former colleague Bronwyn Bishop, who conflated marriage equality with polygamy and bestiality, Abetz played the freedom of speech card.

“In a country that allows free speech, people will make these comments,” he said. “I think the Australian people will make their own determination about that sort of comment.”

“It is like the sort of commentary that is directed at myself, [on] Facebook and elsewhere,” he continued. “That I’m a homophobe, that I’m a bigot, that I engage in hate speech, because I happen to believe that marriage is not about the adults as much as it is the socialisation of the next generation.”

Yeah, it’s actually nothing like that Eric.

But Dastyari disputed Abetz’s theories on child-rearing, pointing out that we already see children raised “in a whole different series of relationships.”

Dastyari said that he feared the debate around the public vote was going to get “very, very ugly,” before hitting out at Abetz over his dubious track record on the issue.

“Eric, you argued against the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Tasmania under the guise of some kind of states rights matter all the way back in 1994, and you have pursued an objection to LGBTI rights throughout,” said Dastyari. “Some of the most hurtful comments that have been said in this debate over 20 years have come from you.”

When Abetz began to protest, Dastyari reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a document he claimed was a press release issued by Abetz in 1994, titled “Federalism Perverted To Allow Sodomy And Incest”.

Dastyari later shared the document on his Facebook page.

Abetz responded by claiming his objection in that case was to “the federal parliament seeking to override the state government”.

“That sort of slur in relation to me is completely wrong,” he added.

For what it’s worth, Abetz is one of the most vocal opponents of LGBTIQ+ rights in federal parliament. He has previously said we should celebrate people for coming out as straight (what?), and has all but confirmed he will vote against marriage equality regardless of the outcome of a plebiscite.

He also once tried to draw a link between abortion and breast cancer, but that’s a whole other thing.

You can watch Abetz’s comments on Q&A, as well as Dastyari’s gotcha moment, below.