New South Wales Labor senator Sam Dastyari has used Tasmanian Liberal senator Eric Abetz' historic comments about homosexuality against him to suggest the postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage will attract negative public debate.
Appearing on the ABC's 'Q&A' program on Monday night, both Dastyari and Abetz became involved in a heated debate over the public conversation around the Turnbull government's legally questionable postal vote on marriage equality.
While Abetz acknowledged he believes it is time for debate on the matter, he said he supports traditional family structures as "the best methodology for socialising the next generation".
Following contributions from audience members, Dastyari responded to Abetz by presenting a 1994 media release from the Tasmanian senator in which he labels homosexuality as "sodomy and incest", as proof of how the postal plebiscite debate "[is] going to get very, very ugly".
You can watch the entire exchange below.
"Let's be clear, sadly there are elements on both sides of this debate that will stretch the boundaries," Abetz began.
"The simple fact is the vast majority of Australians can have this debate, will have this debate and will conduct themselves in a manner that is appropriate."
"I wish I could tell you it's not going to get ugly. I think it's going to get very, very ugly. It's going to get horrible," Dastyari later responded.
"Eric, you can't sit here and tell us about that we need to have more reasonable debate and the tone of the debate when you look at your own history of comments when it comes to this matter. Your own history of what you've said in these debates, going all the way back to when you were first elected in 1994.
"Eric, you argued against the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Tasmania under the guise of some kind of states rights matters all the way back in 1994 and you have pursued an objection to LGBTI rights throughout. Some of the most hurtful comments that have been said in this debate over 20 years, over 20 years have come from you of all people."
In his defence, Abetz claimed the release was relating to a power stoush between the Federal and Tasmanian governments and that Dastyari's allegations against him were "completely wrong".
"The Federal Parliament was seeking to use its foreign affairs power to override the State Government," he said.
"And that was what I was objecting to very, very strongly. And Sam, I think you and a few other people know that that sort of slur in relation to me is a completely wrong."
Looks like the real winner of the SSM debate will be Sam Dastyari. So far it's proven to be the perfect rebranding opportunity.— Petra Starke (@petstarr) August 14, 2017
The comments from both politicians on Monday night come as the plebiscite stands on shaky ground among MPs and marriage equality advocacy groups.
Same-sex marriage advocates and independent federal MP Andrew Wilkie have previously announced they are filing a constitutional challenge against the postal vote, arguing that the Turnbull Government and the agency it wants to run it are exceeding their authority.
Additionally, Dastyari's senate colleague Penny Wong also delivered a powerful attack on the Government's proposed plebiscite, saying it would open up children in the LGBTQ community to "hatred" and slamming the idea as being born of "weakness and division".
"This motion is not about giving Australians a say. This motion is about weakness and division on that side of the parliament. This motion is about a government so divided and so leaderless, they have to handball a hard decision to the community to make it because they cannot make it in their party room," she said in a speech.
"This is a vote whose sole aim is to stop the members of this Parliament being given a chance to do their job and vote.
"You talk about unifying moments? That's not a unifying moment. It's exposing our children to that kind of hatred."