Albo calls for memorial vandals to be unmasked

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has doubled down on his decision to suspend senator Fatima Payman. Picture: NewsWire
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has doubled down on his decision to suspend senator Fatima Payman. Picture: NewsWire

Anthony Albanese has condemned the vandalism of war memorials in Canberra and called on the perpetrators to be unmasked, “exposed publicly” and punished to the full extent of the law.

The Prime Minister’s words come after the Australian National Korean War Memorial, Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial, and the Australian Army National Memorial were graffitied with messages condemning the Palestinian war on Saturday night.

Mr Albanese said it was an act of desecration of the worst kind, responding to a question from New England MP Barnaby Joyce during question time on Monday.

Assignment Freelance Picture =?UTF-8?Q?War_memorials_to_fallen_Australians_=E2=81=A6along_Anzac_P?=\n\t=?UTF-8?Q?arade_have_been_graffitied=2E_Picture=3A_Supplied=2FABC?=
One of the memorials that was graffitied in Canberra over the weekend. Picture: Supplied

Speaking more widely about the “frankly idiotic, criminal actions”, he said “nothing is as bad as the desecration of those memorials”.

“I hope sincerely that these people who are responsible are found, they get the full force of the law, and they get the book thrown at them,” he said.

“(They should) get exposed publicly as well for who they are. We know what they are – they’re unworthy of having any respect and any leniency as a result of their own actions.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton joined Mr Albanese’s condemnation and hoped the perpetrators would be arrested soon.

“I hope that the police can double down on their efforts to identify these people (and) allow a very clear message to be sent to those of a similar mind that these acts are not to be condoned in our society,” he said.

Pressure mounts on Albo to expel rogue senator

Mr Albanese also faced questions on the fate of Fatima Payman.

The first term, Muslim senator has been indefinitely suspended from caucus after she said she would continue to defy the ALP and vote against motions concerning Palestine’s statehood.

Bradfield MP Paul Fletcher lobbed the first question and asked: “When will the prime minister expel Senator Payman from the Labor caucus for her disgraceful conduct and her endorsement of the anti-Semitic chant ‘from the river to the sea’?”

The question was initially ruled out of order.

Senator Fatima Payman sat with her Labor colleagues during Question Time in the Senate on Monday. Picture: NewsWire/ Martin Ollman

Mr Fletcher then asked: “What action will the prime minister take consistent with the courage shown by previous Labor prime ministers? Or will he continue to be weak?”

Mr Albanese said “river to the sea is a statement that has been used by both supporters of Israel and supporters of Palestine, who support a single state.”

But he condemned the phrase.

“I condemn unequivocally the use of the phrase from the river to the sea because it speaks about a single state, a single state,” he said.

“The fact is, the fact is that the government’s position is very clear. We support a two state solution.”

He urged calm and asked the parliament to “take the temperature down in this debate,” citing social harmony.

“The fact is, the fact is that the government’s position is very clear,” he said.

“We continue to argue that every single innocent life matters, whether Israeli or Palestinian.

“By her own actions, Senator Payman has placed herself outside the privilege that comes with participating in the federal parliamentary Labor Party caucus, and I informed her of that yesterday.”

‘Whole new low’: Jacqui unleashes on Greens

Earlier on Monday, Jacqui Lambie, an army veteran, moved a motion in the Senate to condemn vandals who desecrated the memorials, with the Greens refusing their support.

“Do these people really think that this helps their cause? Do they really think these disgusting acts of vandalism will bring about a ceasefire?” Senator Lambie says.

“I don’t think these people have any idea what it’s like to have to go to war and have to fight, to see your mates killed in front of you, or to come home with injuries that mean you will never be the same again.”

Senator Jordon Steele-John said the Greens would not support Senator Lambie’s motion, saying war memorials were “not politically neutral spaces”.

Senator Jordon Steele-John defended the Greens. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“The Australian Constitution contains no explicit commitment to freedom of speech,” he said.

“If we are to believe that the men and women of the ADF gave their lives in wars and conflicts to defend such freedoms, then you have to engage with the reality that protesting, that painting is a form of speech.”

“Whole new low!” Senator Lambie yelled out.

Labor’s Raff Ciccone also hit out at the Greens, saying Senator Steele-John’s comments were “totally out of order” and “offensive”.

He said Labor condemned vandalism at “one of the most sacred places in the country”.

“Australians have a right to peaceful protest but they do not have a right to vandalise, spray paint, desecrate … our memorials.”

The Coalition’s James Paterson said the motion could have been a “moment of unity” for the chamber, if the Greens had supported it.

“It is extraordinary that any elected member of this place would come in here and defend the defacing and the desecration of these monuments,” he said.

The motion passed on the voices and did not require a division.

Albo doubles down on rogue senator ban

Speaking for the first time after indefinitely suspending Senator Payman, Mr Albanese said her decision to appear on ABC’s Insiders and vow to go against Labor’s position on Palestinian statehood was deliberately disruptive.

On Sunday, the 29-year-old first-term senator had her one-week suspension upgraded to an indefinite ban following comments on the current affairs show that she would continue to cross the floor.

Mr Albanese said Senator Payman’s comments and the timing of them made her continued participation in Labor caucus meetings untenable. However was careful to add she was not suspended due to her “support for a policy position that she’s advocated”.

He said her actions were designed to “undermine what is the collective position that the Labor Party has determined” and “disrupted” the launch of Labor’s cost-of-living policies.

“Today is July 1. It’s a day where we want to talk about tax cuts. We want to talk about our economic support for providing that cost of living relief without putting pressure on inflation,” he told ABC Radio.

And instead, you have seamlessly segued into the actions of an individual which is designed to undermine what is the collective position that the Labor Party has determined.

“No individual is bigger than the team and Fatima Payman is welcome to return to participating in the team if she accepts she’s a member of it.”

Anthony Albanese said Senator Payman would be welcome to return to caucus if she changed her position. Picture: NewsWire/ Martin Ollman

He also lashed the original motion by the Greens as a “stunt” to put “Senator Payman in a difficult position”.

While Coalition members are able to cross the floor and vote in opposition to the party line, Mr Albanese said ALP rules would not change.

“What we have is a process where people participate, people respect each other and people don’t engage in indulgence, such as the decision last week,” he said.

“Pretending the Senate recognises states is quite frankly untenable.”

Greens leader Adam Bandt was later asked if he had spoken to Senator Payman as speculation on her future in Labor continues.

“I have chats with members of parliament across the political spectrum all the time. Any of those chats are confidential and I’m not going to say here what the content of any of those chats are,” Mr Bandt said.

Cost-of-living measures lashed

While government MPs are in full force spruiking Labor’s $23bn stage 3 tax cuts, which came into effect on Monday, the cost-of-living measure has been criticised for not doing enough amid a cost-of-living crisis.

Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie said the policy could have been better distributed to help lower-income Australians and was just a “quick Band-Aid fix”.

Senator Jacqui Lambie said the tax cuts, which came into effect on Monday, was a ‘quick Band-Aid fix’. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“I noticed that the government of the day didn’t listen to us, but people like us didn’t need a tax cut, OK,” she said, appearing on Nine’s Today.

As a backbench MP, Senator Lambie is paid $233,643 a year.

“Paying that forward and making sure those people who are really doing it tough, we could have actually given a lot more of a tax cut,” she said.

“It’s a Band-Aid fix. It’s absolutely rubbish, and in between all that, the power prices have gone up,” she said.

However Northern Territory senator Malarndirri McCarthy said the changes would be “quite significant”.

“We are talking about a large portion of Australian taxpayers receiving this, and I do think we have to wait to see how this flows through,” she said.

“We are very confident it will have a positive impact.”