Senators David Pocock and Fatima Payman
Senator Fatima Payman says she maintains Labor values despite crossing the floor over Palestine. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS
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Payman might cross the floor again despite party rebuke

Dominic Giannini June 28, 2024

Outspoken Labor senator Fatima Payman says she may cross the floor again in the future over Palestine despite being rebuked by the prime minister and senior ministers for defying party convention.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese ordered the West Australian senator to sit out of a caucus meeting next week as punishment for voting against Labor’s position and voting for a Greens Senate motion that supported Palestinian statehood.

“We expect that people will participate in our caucus processes and comply with (them),” Mr Albanese told reporters on Friday.

“The important thing to note about this week is that Senate motions do not determine Australia’s foreign policy.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
 Caucus members are expected to comply with its protocols, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

Senator Payman says she will continue to vote with her conscience.

“I still have my Labor Party values and people not being overly supportive or eager to jump on board won’t derail me from continuing to vote with my conscience but also advocating for this very important cause,” she told streaming channel 6 News in an interview aired on Thursday night.

Labor MPs are only granted conscience votes in rare circumstances.

Her office has been contacted for comment.

Labor Party members are expected to vote as a bloc with crossing the floor a no-go under internal rules, but there are no mandated sanctions for defiant MPs.

Although convention dictates a person is expelled from the party room, the decision is supposed to be made by caucus rather than a leader’s directive.

Party membership remains in the hands of the national executive.

The prime minister would not be drawn on future punishments after discussing the matter with Senator Payman.

Labor senator Fatima Payman
 The deputy prime minister says there are no plans to push for Fatima Payman’s expulsion from Labor. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

“I made clear to her that she won’t be attending the caucus for the rest of this session,” he said.

Senator Payman maintained she was voting in line with her convictions and the Labor Party’s platform, which is to recognise a Palestinian state but with no timeline attached and some caveats involved.

Senator Payman has said she wanted to remain in the party and represent Western Australia, and deputy prime minister Richard Marles said there were no plans to push for her expulsion given community tensions over the war in Gaza.

Parallels have been drawn with Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Labor senator Louise Pratt who were forced to toe the party line when it opposed same sex marriage despite being part of the LGBTQI community.

Senator Payman has said she has received some support from people in her party who were sympathetic to her plight but they didn’t agree with the way she went about raising her policy concerns.