SHOCKING homophobic comments made by the Turnbull government minister now in charge of the agency which will conduct the gay marriage postal vote have come back to haunt him.

Michael McCormack, who is responsible for the Australian Bureau of Statistics, penned a column in 1993 lamenting homosexuals' "sordid behaviour".

"A week never goes by anymore that homosexuals and their sordid behaviour don't become further entrenched in society," he wrote in the Wagga Wagga newspaper The Daily Advertiser, where he was then a journalist.

"Unfortunately gays are here and, if the disease their unnatural acts helped spread doesn't wipe out humanity, they're here to stay."

The comments surfaced during an embarrassing live TV debate on Friday morning, when Today host Lisa Wilkinson put them to cabinet minister Christopher Pyne in an interview.

The Minister for Defence Industry argued Mr McCormack was not in charge of the postal vote, that it was the responsibility of Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann. But after being reminded Mr McCormack was responsible for the ABS, which has overall responsibility for the vote, he admitted the remarks were "unacceptable".

"I don't' agree with them, I think they're very unfortunate," Mr Pyne said.

Minister for Small Business Michael McCormack holding a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. Source:News Corp Australia
Minister for Small Business Michael McCormack holding a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. Source:News Corp Australia

"It's a very unpleasant thing to say and I'm sure he regrets it. He is not the minister responsible for the plebiscite, the Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann is. Regardless of that, those remarks are not acceptable in modern society. I don't agree with them and he should distance himself from them."

Sydney Councillor Christine Forster, who is also a marriage equality advocate and the sister of former prime minister Tony Abbott, this morning labelled the comments "abhorrent".

"They're pretty abhorrent, and you'd have to say homophobic," she said.

"I'd hope that his view has evolved. If those comments were made in 1993, hopefully over the last more than 20 years, he's come to terms with the fact that homosexuals are human beings just like he is."

Mr McCormack was handed responsibility for the ABS in 2016, in additional to his responsibilities as Minister for Small Business.

The role of the agency in the postal plebiscite has already been questioned following its handling of last year's Census debacle.

It is understood the government has chosen to have the ABS conduct the postal vote for legal reasons, and because the Australian Electoral Commission which usually handles national votes, is only authorised to conduct official elections as called by a governor-general.

News.com.au has attempted to contact Mr McCormack for comment.

Heated arguments from the floor of Federal Parliament.