Forgive colleagues and focus on action, Labor MP says

Dominic Giannini |

Wills MP Peter Khalil says he would welcome back Senator Fatima Payman.
Wills MP Peter Khalil says he would welcome back Senator Fatima Payman.

More people should be forgiving in politics and colleagues should be able to welcome back an outspoken senator, one Labor MP says, as he warns not all Muslim Australians vote in a bloc.

Peter Khalil is under pressure from the Greens in his Melbourne-based seat of Wills to take stronger action against Israel and cross the floor to support Palestinian statehood as Fatima Payman did in the Senate. 

He called on people to be more forgiving in politics, saying he would welcome back Senator Payman.

Mr Khalil would not directly address reports she had been speaking to a political strategist and a grassroots Muslim group set to target Labor MPs, but said people made mistakes in politics. 

“I would love to see Fatima back in our caucus. People make mistakes all the time and it’s important to forgive people,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

Senator Fatima Payman
Senator Fatima Payman (centre) says she has been exiled by Labor since crossing the Senate floor. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

“People do the wrong thing sometimes; I’m not perfect, I’m sure Fatima isn’t.”

All parties wanted the same thing, “which is to end human suffering and to end a conflict overseas”, Mr Khalil said.

The government had consistently called and voted for a ceasefire at the United Nations, provided $100 million in humanitarian aid and helped people flee Gaza, he said. 

People drive cars piled with their belongings.
Palestinians leave with their belongings after an Israeli evacuation order in southern Gaza. (EPA PHOTO)

Labor also supported Palestinian statehood as part of a two-state solution where Israel and Palestine could live in peace and security side-by-side but repeatedly using motions in parliament as a stunt was not a way to achieve change, he said. 

“Every effort is being made, diplomatically, to ensure the parties reach a ceasefire to end this conflict,” Mr Khalil said.

Diversity was welcomed within the partyroom but Senator Payman had not used the opportunity to push for or raise policy options about recognising Palestine, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.

Labor MPs speaking privately said there was a conscious effort to not completely ice out the West Australian but voiced anger at how she approached the issue, rather than pushing for change internally.

The Greens have seized on the saga to push the government to take stronger action against Israel, including sanctioning its prime minister and expelling the ambassador.

Greens senator David Shoebridge has also chastised the government for failing to raise concerns about the destruction of a Commonwealth war memorial in Gaza. 

About 260 soldiers are buried at a war cemetery in Gaza.

The cemetery had been damaged and the head gardener’s house was destroyed but there had not been an update on the damage from Israel since March, a government official told a parliament hearing. 

Inquiries into how the damage happened had not been made to the Israeli military, an official confirmed.

The Greens are mulling whether to move another pro-Palestine motion in the Senate to continue applying pressure and force the government’s hand.

Senator Payman said she would cross the floor again in similar circumstances, which would dare the prime minister to expel her from caucus and allow the Greens to seize on the action during campaigning.

The Greens are also considering a motion in the lower house to target Labor MPs with a high proportion of Muslims in their seats. 

“Australian Muslims are not a homogeneous bloc,” former Labor strategist turned pollster, Kos Samaras, warned on social media site X.

“That said, in some of these seats, losing 5,000 primary votes to an Independent could place Labor MPs or candidates in a very precarious position.”

His research also indicated Greens voters were shifting away from the party due to the party aligning itself too closely with anti-Semitic rhetoric, with some Jewish Greens feeling “abandoned”.