Australian federal opposition leader Tony Abbott has explained his “poor choice of words” on homosexuality and said he would support recognising committed gay relationships.

The politician appeared on a radio show last week where he said that he felt a “bit threatened” by homosexuality.

He then tried to clarify his remarks by saying that homosexuality challenges the “orthodox notions of the right order of things”.

Yesterday, he went on LGBT Melbourne radio station JOY94.9.

Mr Abbott told interviewer Doug Pollard that he had made a “poor choice of words”.

He added: “In a television interview, you sometimes come out with things that if you were considering your words more carefully, you wouldn’t say.

“Don’t forget, I’m a 53-year-old bloke from a traditional background. I’ve had orthodox Catholic teachings in my youth, and it takes time… to come to a more balanced and nuanced understanding of these things.”

Mr Abbott refused to support gay marriage but said he would consider favouring another form of relationship recognition such as civil unions.

For this, he was attacked by gay rights group Australian Marriage Equality.

Spokesman Alex Greenwich told AAP: “Why does Tony Abbott want to invent an entirely new federal scheme for recognising and fostering stable, enduring relationships when we already have one called marriage?”

Neither the opposition or the ruling Labor Party support gay marriage.