KIMBERLEY CAINES: Labor MPs wanting to vote their own way should consider running as an independent

Kimberley Caines
The Nightly
Fatima Payman claims she’s been ‘exiled’ and considering her future after caucus suspension.

In 2008, the sharp and often vocal Penny Wong voted against same-sex marriage.

This was not because she didn’t support its legalisation, but because she had to.

It was the Labor Party’s official position at the time, despite Wong being a proud gay woman.

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Labor MPs commit to supporting the collective decisions of caucus. If they break ranks, they face the possibility of expulsion.

WA Senator Fatima Payman has dominated headlines in the past week for doing just this — voting with the Greens on a motion for the Senate to recognise the state of Palestine and pledging to do it again if it came back up.

Some say Anthony Albanese was given no choice but to boot the 29-year-old senator from caucus indefinitely.

I say there is too much politics going on here.

The Prime Minister has spent the past week strategically weighing up how to play this to avoid losing votes in some of the nation’s most marginalised groups.

He also needs Payman’s vote in the Senate to pass his Government’s laws, particularly in this final Parliamentary sitting week before the long winter break.

It was refreshing to see a politician standing up for what they believe in and what they have heard from their community.

In the first sit-down interview with Albanese as Prime Minister, I asked him about his team and its diversity.

“This Parliament will be the most representative of the Australian people that we’ve seen and it’s Labor that is leading the way,” he told me at the time.

Afghan-born Payman was the first hijab-wearing Muslim woman in Parliament and one of our youngest-ever senators.

She came to Australia as a refugee when she was eight years old after her family fled the Taliban for Pakistan.

But Payman has learnt a harsh lesson here. The reality of party politics is personal conviction sometimes must take a back seat.

If that’s not a price worth paying, there’s always the crossbench.

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