CANBERRA -- Nationals senator Matt Canavan has brushed off National Mental Health Commission warnings of the "damaging" effects of the marriage equality survey on Australia's LGBTQ population, deeming those upset by the debate to be "delicate little flowers".
Canavan's comments came, ironically, as two of his Coalition colleagues complained to national media outlets about a tweet they found offensive and leading 'no' campaigner Lyle Shelton claimed he had been "demonised and vilified" by marriage equality advocates.
Senator Canavan, who was removed from his position as resources minister due to his status as an Italian citizen and who is awaiting a High Court judgement as to his eligibility to remain in parliament, was interviewed on Sky News on Monday. He was asked about the National Mental Health Commission statement which expressed "alarm" at the detrimental mental health impacts of the marriage equality debate, particularly "damaging, emotive mistruths" being spread.
"Can't we just all grow a spine and grow up? The debate hasn't been that bad, indeed if there is any complaints to be had it's from those who advocate 'yes', some of the vile tweets and statements we have heard from 'yes' campaigners," Canavan said.
"But I can ignore that, let's stop being delicate little flowers and have a proper debate."
Canavan, who cited zero evidence to support his view that the National Mental Health Commission -- an independent and impartial government organisation -- was incorrect in its analysis of the marriage survey, made his comments just an hour before leading 'no' campaigner Lyle Shelton also appeared on Sky News to complain about the comments directed at him.
"People on the yes side routinely get away with vilifying those who believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman," he said.
"I'm quite frankly sick of this. We're not motivated by hate. We have a difference in public policy about a very important institution in our society and we should be free to express that without being demonised and vilified."
In the wake of the comments from the Australian Christian Lobby managing director, it is unclear whether Canavan also believes Shelton to be a "delicate little flower" or needs to "grow a spine and grow up".
Elsewhere in Canberra, other politicians on the 'no' side were also complaining about abuse from the 'yes' campaign. An 11-day-old tweet from author Benjamin Law was unearthed by The Australian newspaper on Monday, where he joked 'Sometimes find myself wondering if I'd hate-f**k all the anti-gay MPs in parliament if it meant they got the homophobia out of their system.'
The Australian contacted Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, a former army officer and who is opposed to marriage equality, who replied "Noting my skills acquired in my previous career I'd like to see him try."
Canavan's Nationals colleague George Christensen, another opponent of marriage equality, complained of "bullying" and called Law's tweet "vile filth", then somehow roped a favourite conservative punching bag -- the Safe Schools program -- into the discussion.
"It's ironic that most supporters of Safe Schools say they support it because it's anti-bullying and yet they engage in some of the worst online bullying you'd ever encounter, especially in their Twitter left-wing echo chamber," he told The Australian.
Also on Monday, yet another Nationals MP complained about the 'yes' side. Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce appeared on Radio National, saying he was sick of the entire marriage equality debate.
"I can't stand these people who stand at the corner and start yelling at you about what your views are on a very personal issue, just get out of my face, leave me alone I will make the decision up myself," he said.
"I just don't want people standing in the corner yelling at me telling me if I don't agree with them, then I am somehow less than human. Just get out of my face."