The federal opposition's families spokesman Kevin Andrews has warned that attempts to legalise same-sex marriage, including a recent bill from Throsby MP Stephen Jones, risk becoming a distraction from more pressing marital issues.
In the region yesterday to promote his new book, Maybe 'I do': Modern marriage and the pursuit of happiness, Mr Andrews said Australians needed to help address why so many marriages were failing, as well as the subsequent follow-on effects that arose from break-ups.
"In some ways, same-sex marriage distracts us from the real debate - and that is why are there so many marriages breaking up and why are more and more people not getting married?" he said.
"We know that co-habitating relationships break up at a higher rate than marriages, and that's the thing that we've got to start looking at in my view."
Mr Andrews' comments come barely two months after a private member's bill from Throsby MP Jones, attempting to legalise same-sex marriage, was defeated.
Mr Jones's bill was one of two rejected by the House of Representatives, with 42 MPs supporting and 98 MPs voting against.
"I was opposed to the bill and I voted against it, and it was overwhelmingly defeated in Parliament," Mr Andrews said.
"He's entitled to his view, I have no personal animosity or anything towards Stephen, it's just that when an issue comes up we have a vote about it."
In his book, which was released in October, Mr Andrews said he had tried to send a message about the importance of a successful marriage.
"Marriage does matter and the outcome in terms of the educational outcomes, the employment and health outcomes, particularly for children, is affected by marriage," he said. "I think marriage is a protective institution for children and I think we should maintain marriage as that.
"That's not to say that people don't have affectionate relationships, whether they're same-sex, opposite sex - whatever. But I don't think that's marriage.
"It's not a case of seeking to upset people, it's just that I think it's a matter of history ... we're best to stick to marriage as it is."
Mr Andrews also pointed to figures released in 1998 which suggest marriage break-ups cost Australia up to $6 billion a year.
"That figure was back then and it's quite clear that the cost is much higher now. I don't think anyone would scoff at a figure of up to $10 billion dollars is the cost of marriage breakdown," he said.
"That includes the court costs for a start, there's much higher welfare bills as a result of that, you've got more housing issues - because when people split up they need two houses - and there's much more call on public housing."