Prime Minister Scott Morrison has accused Bill Shorten of taking a cheap shot at him over his response to a question on whether gay people go to hell.
Mr Morrison released a statement clarifying his position after earlier avoiding a direct answer to the question from a journalist.
"No, I do not believe that. It was a desperate, cheap shot from Bill Shorten who is looking to distract attention from his housing tax that will undermine the value of people's homes," Mr Morrison said in the statement on Tuesday.
He later repeated his criticism of Mr Shorten, telling reporters in northwest Tasmania the Labor leader was trying to "cynically exploit an issue that has nothing to do with this election".
Earlier, Mr Shorten said Mr Morrison should have immediately ruled out the idea that gay people go to hell, when asked about it on Monday.
"I support the law of the country and I always don't mix my religion with politics and my faith with politics," Mr Morrison told reporters in Perth at the time.
The question was put to the Pentecostal prime minister amid a furore over Australian rugby player Israel Folau who posted a biblical passage on social media saying "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves atheists and idolators" would go to hell unless they repent.
Mr Shorten says he can't believe the issue is even being raised in the campaign, but that Mr Morrison's response wasn't good enough.
"I cannot believe that the prime minister has not immediately said that gay people will not go to hell," he told reporters in Tasmania.
"This country needs to really lift itself and the political debate and coverage needs to lift itself in the next four days."
The Labor leader said his own views were firm.
"I don't believe gay people, because they're gay, will go to hell. I don't need a law to tell me that. I don't believe it," he said.
Senior Labor MP Penny Wong says the Liberals should dump two of its candidates who don't support gay marriage and believe gay couples shouldn't be able to have children.
"It's a little late - we did," said Senator Wong, who has two children with her wife.
While being questioned on Monday, Mr Morrison would not say whether his personal opposition to same-sex marriage had changed since it was legalised after 62 per cent of the country voted yes in 2017.
"It's law, and I'm glad that the change has now been made and people can get on with their lives," he said.
Australian Associated Press
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