Tony Abbott, the leader of Australia’s main opposition party and who is vying to become the country’s next prime minister, has come under fire for suggesting that same-sex marriage is something that is just in fashion at the moment.

Appearing on Sydney radio 2SM, Mr Abbott was questioned about his position on same-sex marriage. He said that he supported the traditional definition of marriage, adding: “I respect the views of people who disagree with me but I respectfully disagree with them.”

The Liberal Party leader went on to say: “My idea is to build on the strength of our society and I support, by and large, evolutionary change. I’m not someone who wants to see radical change based on the fashion of the moment.”

Since making the comments Mr Abbott has come under fire from frontbench Labor politicians who described his comments as insensitive. Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said that many Australians would find Mr Abbott’s remarks ‘deeply offensive” and that “people’s sexual orientations are just the way they are.”

The comments come one day after the opposition leader described a young female Liberal candidate as having sex appeal.

Mr Abbott responded to the Labor Party attack claiming it was “pathetic” and put it down to Labor losing in the polls.

He later clarified his position, saying that, while same-sex marriage was important, it was not the only significant issue facing Australia.

He said he was not suggesting the reform was a “fad” but then rejected the suggestion that legalising such unions was “inevitable”.

“I don’t believe it is,” he said. And he likened the issue to Republicanism, saying many people had once thought it was inevitable that Australia would throw off the Royal family, and they were wrong.

Mr Abbott’s gay sister Christine Forster tweeted: “Everyone knows my brother @tonyabbottMHR & I have different views on marriage equality.”

Mr Abbott’s comments come days after Australian Senate Leader Penny Wong spoke out against a national referendum on the issue of same sex marriage despite supporting equal marriage rights herself.