Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has resigned as Opposition leader Tony Abbott's personal parliamentary secretary following widespread furore over the South Australian's comments that legislating for gay marriage could lead to the legalising of bestiality.
In announcing Senator Bernardi's resignation Mr Abbott said his contribution to the same-sex marriage debate was unwelcome.
"They are views that I don't share. They are views that many people will find repugnant," Mr Abbott said.
The Senate debate on a same-sex marriage bill introduced by four Labor senators continues today, however a vote on a separate same-sex marriage bill introduced by Labor MP Stephen Jones was defeated in the lower house this afternoon, 42 votes to 98.
Mr Abbott said Senator Bernardi had made ''ill-disciplined comments'' in the Senate overnight and ''had compounded the offence by repeating the comments on radio this morning''.
''I had a conversation (with Senator Bernardi this morning) and as a result of that conversation he offered his resignation,'' he said.
Mr Abbott described Senator Bernardi as a talented politician with ''a lot to contribute'' but said he would need to do a ''lot of political penance.''
Mr Abbott said he thought it was important to act swiftly on the issue and send a message to his team that "ill-discipline" was unacceptable.
He said he was determined to present a ''strong and disciplined alternative government''.
Labor and the Greens had called on Mr Abbott to sack Senator Bernardi after his remarks in the Senate last night that allowing same-sex marriage would lead to demands to legalise bestiality and polygamy.
Mr Abbott announced he would appoint two members of his team to fill Senator Bernardi's portfolio responsibilities.
Former chief of staff to John Howard turned senator Arthur Sinodinos will step in as shadow parliamentary secretary while Victorian MP Jamie Briggs will serve as shadow parliamentary secretary for families.
Mr Briggs currently heads up the Coalition's 'Waste Watch' program which is designed to highlight instances of unnecessary government spending. He will continue in the role.
Senator Sinodinos will also continue as the chairman of the Coalition's Deregulation Taskforce along with his new responsibilities.
Mr Abbott said Senator Bernardi's effective sacking would not change his mind on the opposition's stance to oppose same-sex marriage.
''While I have consistently advocated a position that the Coalition should keep its recent election commitment to maintain marriage as a union between a man and a woman, I will not tolerate comments that are offensive to people in same-sex relationships,'' he said.
''While the Coalition has a policy position not to support changes to the Marriage Act, the Coalition has a proud history of opposition to discrimination in any form and as Leader of the Opposition, I will not have this record undermined.''
Mr Abbott said he had been concerned when he was informed about the comments made in the Senate but after Senator Bernardi appeared on a radio program, ''I swiftly concluded it was one mistake too many''.
''I've known Cory for a long time. He is a decent bloke with strong opinions. But discipline [and] team play is vital,'' he said.
More to come..