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Fatima Payman says she has been ‘exiled’ by Labor following suspension from caucus | Australian politics

PoliticsFatima Payman says she has been ‘exiled’ by Labor following suspension from caucus | Australian politics


The Western Australia Labor senator Fatima Payman has claimed she has been “exiled” by the party and colleagues after warning she might cross the floor again on votes relating to Palestinian statehood.

The senator issued a statement on Facebook on Monday afternoon claiming she had been removed from group chats, caucus meetings and ostracised from colleagues.

“Yesterday, the prime minister suspended me indefinitely from the Australian Labor party caucus,” Payman said.

“Since then, I have lost all contact with my caucus colleagues. I have been removed from caucus meetings, committees, internal group chats, and whips bulletins. I have been told to avoid all chamber duties that require a vote including divisions, motions and matters of public interest.”

The first-term senator said she had been “exiled” and had been led to believe “some members are attempting to intimidate me into resigning from the Senate”.

“As a result, I will abstain from voting on Senate matters for the remainder of the week, unless a matter of conscience arises where I’ll uphold the true values and principles of the Labor party,” she said.

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

PM says Fatima Payman has placed herself outside the ‘privilege’ of Labor party caucus – video

Guardian Australia has asked the prime minister’s office for a response to Payman’s claims. A government spokesperson declined to comment.

Anthony Albanese suspended Payman indefinitely from Labor’s caucus on Sunday after an interview with ABC’s Insiders in which the Western Australian senator said she would again cross the floor if faced with another Senate motion to recognise the state of Palestine.

On Monday morning, the prime minister told ABC radio that by taking part in the interview, Payman “chose to … disrupt Labor and what we are doing today, the day before the most significant assistance that has been given to working people in a very long period of time”.

In question time, Albanese answered a Coalition question about not expelling Payman from the party by arguing it was important for “social harmony … that we take temperature down in this debate, not seek to inflame it”.

“By her own actions, Senator Payman has placed herself outside the privilege that comes with participating in the federal parliamentary Labor party caucus, and I informed her of that yesterday,” he said.

Last week the Greens and the Coalition joined forces to reject a proposed government amendment to the motion’s wording that specified that recognition of Palestine occur “as part of a peace process in support of a two-state solution and a just and enduring peace”.

If that amendment was accepted, it would have allowed all Labor senators to vote for the motion.

Labor and the opposition had previously teamed up to vote on a motion condemning the pro-Palestinian phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, after Payman said it in a snap press conference in a break from Labor’s stance.

In the upper house on Monday, the Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi said Labor had “shamefully sanctioned” Payman, and should instead focus its efforts on the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Faruqi asked the government during Senate question time: “How many more Palestinians will be killed before you take concrete action?”

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The foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, told the Senate she understood why the Greens wanted “to run a political line here in this chamber”.

Faruqi’s colleague David Shoebridge interjected: “To stop a genocide?”

Wong told the chamber that the Albanese government had adopted the strongest support for Palestinian statehood in Australia’s history.

She said the government had voted for a Gaza ceasefire in December, before voting in May to boost the Palestinian mission’s status at the UN general assembly.

“Unlike those opposite, we don’t try to wake up every morning figuring out how to stand in the way of change, and unlike the Greens, we don’t think asserting moral superiority and condemning others delivers anything other than self-satisfaction,” Wong said.

The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network said it was “disturbed by the suggestion that towing the Labor party’s line is more important than standing up for the rights and lives of Palestinians as they are slaughtered in Gaza”.

Earlier on Monday, Albanese said he wanted to be “very clear” that the suspension of Payman was “not because of her support for a policy position” but rather was because of the breach of team rules.

Fatima Payman crosses the floor to vote for motion to recognise Palestinian statehood – video

A number of Payman’s colleagues have already said they hope she continues in the party. The assistant health minister, Ged Kearney, a long-time advocate of Palestinian statehood, told Guardian Australia: “Fatima has good labour movement values and I hope she stays in the Labor party.”

The assistant climate changer minister, Jenny McAllister, told ABC on Monday afternoon the decision on her future within the party rested in Payman’s hands.

“I think it’s been made very clear that should Senator Payman wish to resume observing [Labor’s collective decision-making] conventions, she’d be able to rejoin.”

– Additional reporting by Paul Karp



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