Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has blasted campaigners on both sides of the marriage equality debate and told them to "get out of my face", as his government's national survey on the issue kicks off.
Speaking to the ABC's Radio National Breakfast program on Monday morning, Joyce said people were sick of being yelled at by groups on both sides of the 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. Get out of my face, leave me alone, I’ll make the decision myself," Joyce said.
"Like a lot of people, I don’t want to be yelled at by groups who tell me I’m somehow less than human if I’ve got a different view from them and sometimes that comes from both sides."
Former resources Matt Canavan also spoke out on the issue on Monday, telling Sky News that the debate "hasn't been that bad" in response to comments from the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) expressing concern about how the debate might negatively affect LGBTI people.
Co-chair of the NMHC, Alan Fels, said the marriage debate had seen "unacceptable sentiments" and had heightened discrimination against LGBTI Australians.
"LGBTIQ people have been experiencing damaging behaviour in their workplaces, communities and in social and traditional media," Fels said.
In response, Canavan called for Australians to "grow a spine and grow up".
"The debate hasn't been that bad, indeed if there's any complaints to be had it's from those who advocate "yes" — some of the vile tweets and statement we've had from "yes" campaigners. But I can ignore that," he said.
"Let's stop being delicate little flowers and have a proper debate."
The unprecedented national survey, conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, is in full swing following the defeat of two legal challenges in the High Court last week.
600,000 forms per day will be posted out to 16 million Australians from Tuesday morning.
Joyce told the ABC that he did not support a change to the Marriage Act, but did not want to get involved in the debate.
"I've told people that I believe in the current definition of marriage. I’m no saint, I just believe that is the contract that works," he said.
He said prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was "allowed to express his views" in favour of same-sex marriage and "good luck to him".
Joyce also said that he would vote in line with the result of the postal survey, despite his personal opposition.
"The whole point about [the postal survey] is that it is a personal vote. It's your vote, not my vote. Your view, not my view," he said.
"Whatever that view is, I will not vote against the Australian people."
Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Lane Sainty at email@example.com.
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