Kevin Rudd, the prime minister of Australia, has said that while he welcomes debate on gay marriage, he will not support it.

He was speaking ahead of the Australian Labor Party’s national conference, which begins in Sydney on Thursday. The gay marriage issue will be discussed at the conference.

Rallies in support of gay marriage are set to be held around the country on Friday.

His comments come despite moves within his centre-left party to have the ban overturned.

Rudd told ABC News: “We are consistent with the policy that we took to the last election.”

He added that his party “fully respects the integrity of same-sex relationships”.

Rudd said Labor will not change its opposition to same-sex marriage, commenting that marriage should be a union between a man and a woman.

This was amidst growing media speculation that he will face a groundswell of support for same-sex marriage at the conference.

The issue was thrown into the spotlight this week when the Labor Party in Tasmania state voted for the Marriage Act to be amended to allow for same-sex unions.

A recent poll suggested that up to 60 per cent of Australians support gay marriage and the Bureau of Statistics announced in May that it would count same-sex couples who declared themselves married in the national census.