PM banishes rogue senator from caucus

Labor senator Fatima Payman during Question Time in the Senate at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Rogue Labor senator Fatima Payman has been suspended from caucus indefinitely after she said she would cross the floor again to support Palestine, defying warnings from the Prime Minister and other senior government leaders.

“By her own actions and statements, Senator Payman has placed herself outside the privilege that comes with participating in the federal parliamentary Labor Party caucus,” an Albanese government spokeswoman said.

“If Senator Payman decides she will respect the caucus and her Labor colleagues she can return, but until then Senator Payman is suspended from the right to participate in federal parliamentary Labor Party caucus meetings and processes.”

Senator Payman had initially been suspended from caucus for one meeting after she broke caucus rules last week to vote in support of a Greens’ motion calling for statehood for Palestine.

“Will you abide by the decisions of the Caucus in the future?” she was asked by Insiders host David Speers.

“If the recognition on the state of Palestine was to be brought forward tomorrow, I would cross the floor,” she said.

Senator Fatima Payman crossed the floor to support the Greens’ motion to have the Senate recognise Palestine as a state last week. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

The 29-year-old Muslim senator from Western Australia said she respected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who had what she said was “a stern-but-fair conversation” with her after she crossed the floor.

Mr Albanese suspended from caucus meetings for the rest of the sitting fortnight.

“That’s the prerogative and the decision the Prime Minister came down to. When I made the decision on the Senate floor to cross, I did it with the understanding that this could lead to expulsion and costing my Labor membership,” she said in the pre-recorded interview.

Senator Payman said she wanted to remain in the Labor Party, bur realised she had upset some colleagues with her actions.

“I understand there’s been various colleagues who’ve been upset with me and frustrated. I’ve received the cold shoulder,” she said.

Labor senator Fatima Payman during Question Time in the Senate at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“But there has been an overwhelming majority who have stood up in solidarity doing their welfare checks.

“And I know there are Caucus members who have advocated for this matter longer than I’ve been on this Earth for.”

Senator Payman said she was taking the action because Palestinians were suffering in the war between Hamas and Israel.

“These Palestinians do not have 10 years and so that’s why I will use what is within my power as a backbench senator to continue advocating for a just and lasting solution,” she said.

“And I think that’s what fair Australians want.”

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles told Insiders said Senator Payman was elected as a member of the Labor Party and needed to follow the rules.

“For all of us who are members of this team, Caucus solidarity - what it is to be a member of the team – is fundamentally important to every one of us.,” Mr Marles said.

“It’s the heart of the obligations that we have in terms of being members of the Labor Party and being given the great privilege that we have of serving the Australian people in the parliament.”

Senator Fatima Payman attended caucus last Tuesday where Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addressed MPs and senators. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

The Albanese government supports the recognition of a Palestinian state as part of a peace process towards a two-state solution.

It had tried to amend the Greens’ motion to include that recognition should happen “as a part of a peace process in support of a two-state solution and a just and enduring peace”.

Senator Payman told reporters after she crossed the floor that she voted for the Greens’ motion because “we cannot believe in two-state solutions and only recognise one.”

“It was the most difficult decision I have had to make, and although each step I took across the Senate floor felt like a mile, I know I did not walk alone,” she said.