Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard has described gay campaigners as fundamentalists, prompting activists to brand him as out of touch and ignorant to the public.

On a visit to a university in Dublin, Ireland this week, Mr Howard insisted it is not discriminatory to deny marriage for same sex couples.

He highlighted financial laws which protect the gay community in Australia, but said most Australians oppose gay marriage rights, “I think it is a form of minority fundamentalism to say that you have to, in every aspect of one’s institutions and one’s arrangements in society, have technical equivalence.”

David Scamell from the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby told ABC News, “Given that both Labor and Liberal say that they don’t support gay marriage, I don’t think it’s likely to happen anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean he is in touch with what Australians want.”

Gay couples in Australia were given a civil union law in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) last month.