Labor senator Fatima Payman
Senator Fatima Payman says she is considering her future after a caucus ban for crossing the floor. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Payman ‘exiled’ from Labor after Palestine floor cross

July 1, 2024

Fatima Payman has described being isolated by the Labor Party and colleagues after being suspended from caucus for crossing the floor to support a pro-Palestine motion.

The West Australian has also been told to avoid all Senate chamber duties, including attending votes, she said in a statement on Monday.

“I have lost all contact with my caucus colleagues. I have been removed from caucus meetings, committees, internal group chats, and whips bulletins,” she said.

“I have been exiled. These actions lead me to believe that some members are attempting to intimidate me into resigning from the Senate.”

Labor senator Fatima Payman is embraced by minister Tanya Plibersek
 Senator Fatima Payman says she will reflect on her future and how best to represent the WA people. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

She would avoid voting on all Senate matters for the rest of the week unless it’s a matter of conscience, Senator Payman said.

“I will use this time to reflect on my future and the best way to represent the people of Western Australia,” she said.

Senator Payman said earlier she would not resign from the party.

Minister Anne Aly said she had reached out to her but has not received a reply.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese extended her one-week caucus suspension to an indefinite benching on Sunday after Senator Payman vowed to cross the floor again on a matter of conscience.

She maintains supporting the motion on Palestinian statehood was in line with Labor’s values as the party’s policy platform includes recognition.

Labor senators are bound by party convention to vote in a bloc and while there is no mandated sanction for crossing the floor, it has resulted in expulsion.

Mr Albanese chastised Senator Payman for derailing the government’s agenda, saying he wanted to to spruik tax cuts.

Senator Payman “placed herself outside the privilege that comes with participating in the federal parliamentary Labor caucus”, he said, before defending the government’s stance on the war in Gaza.

“We continue to argue that every single innocent life matters, whether Israeli or Palestinian,” he told parliament on Monday.

Mr Albanese said the senator wasn’t elected as an individual as voters “put a number one in a box that said Australian Labor Party”, not her name.

Australian War Memorial in Canberra
 Senators shared views on the defacement of the Australian War Memorial with pro-Palestinian slogans. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

Fractions also opened up over the vandalism of the Australian War Memorial, where pro-Palestinian slogans were spray-painted.

Independent senator Jacqui Lambie moved to condemn the defacing of war memorials in parliament, calling it “deeply insulting” to soldiers and veterans.

“Do these people really think that this helps their cause? Do they really think that these disgusting acts of vandalism will bring about a ceasefire?”, Senator Lambie, a veteran, told the chamber.

The motion passed with the support of the government and coalition.

But Greens foreign affairs spokesman Jordon Steele-John stood by the right to protest, saying the party could not support a motion singling out pro-Palestinian protesters.

“If we are to believe that the men and women of the ADF gave their lives in wars and conflicts to defend our freedoms, then you have to engage with the reality that protesting, that painting, is a form of speech – it literally, practically is.”

The vote was another example of social rifts in the community, Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said.

“There is an opportunity … to stand together and to seek to unify the country, to set our expectations of what is acceptable, what isn’t acceptable,” she said.

“We haven’t been able to do that. The message out of the Senate … has been that we are deeply divided on this as well.”

The prime minister and opposition leader also condemned the vandalism and called for the culprit to face the full force of the law.

The death toll in Gaza continues to mount with some 38,000 dead in an Israeli counteroffensive, according to the local Hamas-run health ministry.

Militants from Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group by Australia’s government, killed 1200 people and took 250 hostages during an attack in Israel on October 7.