A dash of cautious appreciation and a good pinch of scepticism have followed federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s interview on Melbourne GLBTI radio station JOY94.9.

Abbott said he would give “in principle” support to federal anti-discrimination legislation which covered sexuality and gender diversity if it was “good law”.

The Speedo lover said he would like to see a way for gay relationships to be “celebrated, acknowledged, and recognised” and — although he reaffirmed his opposition to gay marriage — said he was “open to the possibility” of a national relationship scheme.

“In principle, yes, I’m in favour of stable, enduring relationships, I’m in favour of people keeping their commitment to people,” Abbott told JOY presenter and Southern Star columnist Doug Pollard.

“I know in other countries there are civil unions legislation, there are domestic partnerships legislation and so on, and I’m very happy to look at that, Doug, although obviously it would have to be widely discussed in the community, it would have to be discussed within the Liberal Party and Coalition before it could become our formal policy.”

Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG) national spokeswoman Shelley Argent told Southern Star, while she welcomed Abbott’s general support for a national relationship register, it still fell short.

“Not everyone wants to get married but the straights have a choice,” Argent said. “If a relationship register is on offer, it’s better than nothing, but it’s still not full equality.

“I think there’s method in his madness. He’s going down the route of saying he’ll allow same-sex relationships to occur with a register, but it slows down the process of marriage.”

Australian Marriage Equality spokesman Alex Greenwich said he was opposed to a national relationship scheme that could act as a substitute for marriage.

“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?” he said.

Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Dr Anthony Bendall said the Opposition leader did not make any firm pledges.

“In a sense he didn’t take a firm position on almost anything, and while he tended to soften his attitude to what you might have expected him to say … it doesn’t necessarily represent any great change in policy,” he said.

“The Lobby welcomes some of the positions he took, but I don’t think it really reveals the election platform of the Coalition at this stage. We’d certainly want some firmer promises before we make any statement about that, and even then you’d have to trust the promises.”

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