‘Greatest injustice’: pro-Palestine senator quits Labor

Dominic Giannini |

Senator Fatima Payman is quitting Labor ‘with a heavy heart’ over her stance on Palestine.
Senator Fatima Payman is quitting Labor ‘with a heavy heart’ over her stance on Palestine.

Senator Fatima Payman has condemned Labor’s “indifference” to the suffering in Gaza as she quit the party after being exiled for crossing the floor.

The first-term senator will move to the crossbench and continue to represent Western Australia, saying she had been left feeling isolated by her Labor caucus colleagues.

Labor’s glacial pace on recognising Palestine as a state meant it was untenable to continue to push for change from within the party, an emotional Senator Payman said.

The issue of recognition wasn’t a “Jewish versus Muslim issue”, but rather one that needed to be looked at from a human rights perspective as the death toll mounts in Gaza, she said.

“We have all seen the bloodied images of young children losing limbs, being amputated with our anesthetics and starving as Israel continues its onslaught,” she said.

“As a representative of the diverse and vibrant communities of Western Australia, I’m compelled to bid to be their true voice, to be their true voice in this chamber, especially when their cries for justice and humanity echo so loudly.

“Witnessing our government’s indifference to the greatest injustice of our times makes me question the direction the party is taking.”

Senator Fatima Payman sitting alone in the chamber
Senator Fatima Payman says she was isolated and exiled by her Labor colleagues. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

A teary Senator Payman said she was “deeply torn” on her decision after receiving support from rank and file Labor members and unionists but pressure from caucus colleagues and the leadership to conform.

“With a heavy heart but a clear conscience, I announce my resignation,” she said.

The young Muslim woman said she had been pressured by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in a meeting on Sunday to either toe the party line or give back the Senate spot, but denied his behaviour had been intimidating.

She revealed colleagues had iced her out by not wanting to sit with her in the chamber and claimed some had stood over her.

Labor members have said they had tried to reach out to the West Australian to no avail.

Senator Payman criticised Mr Albanese for accusing her in parliament of having planned to make a political move for more than a month.

“It’s not true,” she said, denying any affiliation with other political parties or movements.

She had met with a political strategist last week as a second-year senator and held informal meetings with a grassroots Muslim group set to take on Labor MPs at the next election.

Fatima Payman
Fatima Payman will sit on the Senate’s crossbench after quitting Labor. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

“I’ve only had one meeting with them, I have many meetings across the board with many community leaders and members,” she said.

“What they’re doing is educating and ensuring that people have that political literacy, I want to support and have always supported the education element of wanting to empower people to make decisions.

“This is a democratic decision for them to make.”