Fatima Payman steps aside from parliament foreign affairs committee roles amid pro-Palestinian stance fallout

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Katina Curtis
The Nightly
2 Min Read
The first-term WA senator has withdrawn from the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade and the separate Senate committee covering the same portfolios, The West Australian can reveal.
The first-term WA senator has withdrawn from the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade and the separate Senate committee covering the same portfolios, The West Australian can reveal. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

Labor Senator Fatima Payman has stepped aside from two parliamentary roles amid the fallout from her pro-Palestinian stance that diverges from the Government’s position on the Middle East conflict.

The first-term WA Senator has withdrawn from the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade and the separate Senate committee covering the same portfolios, The Nightly can reveal.

Three sources confirmed Senator Payman has asked for another Labor senator to sit on the Senate committee in her place at least until the end of the winter parliamentary sittings in early July. This means she will not take part in the estimates scrutiny of Foreign Affairs officials next week.

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She has formally resigned from the more prestigious joint standing committee.

Liberal MPs called for Anthony Albanese to sack Senator Payman from the committee a fortnight ago after she labelled the conflict in Gaza a genocide, urged the Prime Minister to take stronger action against Israel and used the rallying cry, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.

Senator Payman originally intended to make the comments to a rally outside Parliament House marking Nakba day — the anniversary of Israel’s 1948 establishment — but she instead delivered them to a small media contingent after the protest organisers would not let her speak.

Labor and Coalition senators subsequently voted to urge all colleagues to refrain from inflammatory comments relating to the Israel-Gaza conflict while Mr Albanese said the use of the “from the river to the sea” phrase was inappropriate.

Labor Senator Fatima Payman in the Senate chamber at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, May 16, 2024. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
The first-term WA senator has withdrawn from the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade and the separate Senate committee covering the same portfolios, The Nightly can reveal. Credit: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

Following the Budget Week intervention, Senator Payman appeared alongside students at pro-Palestinian encampments at the University of Melbourne and continued to speak out against Israel’s actions.

“Videos are coming out of Rafah today with beheaded babies. This is deplorable. We must demand an end to this genocide, stop all trade, divest and recognise a Palestinian state,” she wrote on social media on Monday.

There are strong feelings within Labor’s caucus on both sides of the conflict, with Macnamara MP Josh Burns, who is Jewish, having publicly criticised the Government’s backing of a UN vote on Palestine’s bid to become a full member.

Despite the latitude given to Labor MPs to speak their mind on the issue, there has been internal unhappiness at the way Senator Payman did so without warning or escalating her views through internal channels.

However, she continues to hold a position as the secretary of Labor’s international and legal caucus committee.

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