Labor to meet after defiant senator suspended over Gaza

Alex Mitchell |

Labor senator Fatima Payman is refusing to back down on recognising Palestinian statehood.
Labor senator Fatima Payman is refusing to back down on recognising Palestinian statehood.

Government MPs are set to meet for the first time after an explosive interview resulted in a senator being suspended from the Labor caucus.

Senator Fatima Payman vowed to continue crossing the floor in support of Palestinian statehood, defying Labor expectations that members should vote as a bloc.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who had previously banned the senator from a single party room meeting, suspended her from the caucus altogether as a government spokesperson accused her of “placing herself outside the privilege” of the party.

Labor’s factions will hold meetings on Monday before caucus meets on Tuesday, when tougher penalties including the potential expulsion of Senator Payman could be discussed.

The WA senator crossed the floor on Tuesday to support a Greens motion supporting Palestinian statehood.

She ruled out quitting the party on Sunday, suggesting her vote was consistent with Labor’s core principles.

Labor’s 2023 national platform specifically calls on Australia to recognise Palestine as a state and expected the issue to be an important priority for the government.

“The party to me, rank-and-file members, are unionists, are phone bankers, door-knockers, life-long members of the party who put together the platform,” Senator Payman told ABC’s Insiders on Sunday.

“The decisions the caucus makes, obviously are up to them, but I do not intend on leaving the party because I firmly believe I’ve upheld all the values of what we as the Labor party should stand for.”

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie indicated his support of Senator Payman, believing her actions were consistent with Labor’s call for a two-state solution in the Middle East.

“Of course Senator Payman is right, you can’t honestly advocate for a two-state solution unless you’re prepared to recognise the sovereign state of Palestine,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“To do otherwise is to buckle to the US and Israeli governments … pretty simple really.”

Confirming the indefinite suspension on Sunday, a government spokeswoman said Senator Payman’s “actions and statements” forced their hand.

“If Senator Payman decides she will respect the caucus and her Labor colleagues she can return, but until then she is suspended from the right to participate in federal parliamentary Labor Party caucus meetings and processes,” they said.

The death toll in Gaza is approaching 38,000, according to the Hamas-run local health ministry.

Israel launched a campaign in Gaza after designated terrorist organisation Hamas killed 1200 Israelis and took about 250 people hostage – according to Israel’s tallies – in an attack on October 7, 2023.