Fatima Payman crosses floor to back Greens motion, future with Labor now in doubt

Katina Curtis and Kimberley Caines
The Nightly
Labor Senator Fatima Payman walks with Independent Senator David Pocock as she crosses the floor.
Labor Senator Fatima Payman walks with Independent Senator David Pocock as she crosses the floor. Credit: Lukas Coch/AAPIMAGE

WA senator Fatima Payman has crossed the floor to back a Greens vote in support of Palestine despite a bid from senior Labor figures to head off a split in the party.

The 29-year-old senator sat out several procedural votes on the motion calling on the Senate to recognise the state of Palestine before joining Greens senators and independent David Pocock to support it.

Ultimately, the motion was defeated because the Government and Opposition voted against.

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Labor rules prevent its MPs from crossing the floor except on rare matters of conscience, meaning the Afghan-born West Australian senator could face expulsion from the party.

Senator Payman is expected to make a statement shortly.

Labor Senator Fatima Payman now faces possible expulsion.
Labor Senator Fatima Payman now faces possible expulsion. Credit: Lukas Coch/AAPImage

There was speculation Senator Payman was considering breaking ranks to support the Greens motion and potentially quitting the party as her pro-Palestine position put her on the outer with her Labor colleagues.

Earlier on Tuesday, Senator Payman shared a tongue-in-cheek photo from inside Labor caucus meeting as speculation swirled about her future in the party.

Senate leader and Foreign Minister Penny Wong had written to other party leaders asking them to support a change to the motion stating that “the need for the Senate to recognise the state of Palestine as a part of a peace process in support of a two-state solution and a just and enduring peace” was a matter of urgency.

Senator Wong wrote that the Australian Government had been working with the international community to create momentum for lasting peace in the Middle East and that a two-state solution was the only way to break the cycle of violence.

“Given the distressing impact of the conflict in the Middle East and here at home, it is my hope that senators will send a clear statement in support of the international efforts to advance the cause of a two-state solution and a just an enduring peace,” she wrote in the letter seen by The West.

She informed the caucus meeting of the move before the letter became public.

The Opposition is yet to decide if it will back the change.

Separately, frontbencher Anne Aly said the feedback she had from other countries during an emergency summit on aid for people in Gaza was very different to the domestic rhetoric about Australia’s position.

Dr Aly represented Australia at the UN-backed meeting in Jordan earlier in June.

Australia committed a further $10 million for the World Food Program during that time.

“What I heard at the conference, was that the things Australia is doing – including the aid we are providing, our support for the UN Security Council ceasefire resolution, our commitment to a two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state, voting for expanded Palestinian rights at the UN, being clear in our respect and support for independence of the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court – has been respected and is making a real impact,” Dr Aly told The West.

“These are the very actions that countries and agencies on the ground are calling for.”

She made similar comments to caucus colleagues, saying that “the domestic rhetoric here is very different to what is being spoken about in the region” and acknowledged the recent vandalism of Jewish MP Josh Burns’ electorate office in Melbourne.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles told caucus there had been a “dramatic rise” in anti-Semitism, also highlighting the arson and smashing of windows at Mr Burns’ office, and said he was working closely with the Jewish community and religious leaders on how to tackle it.

He also acknowledged a “very serious challenge of Islamophobia” and said the Government would be doing more on both issues.

Despite reports suggesting Senator Payman is increasingly isolated from her Labor colleagues, she did attend the caucus meeting on Tuesday.

Ahead of the meeting, she shared a photo on social media from inside the party room with her NSW colleague Jerome Laxale standing next to a tie.

The tie belonged to NSW Labor MP Dan Repacholi — who is 2.02 metres tall.

“I’m unapologetically shorter than @danrepacholi’s tie that @jeromelaxale has borrowed!” Senator Payman wrote.

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