Community Safety

Senator's one-off ban for vote on Palestine

June 27, 2024

Thursday 27 June 2024
Clare Armstrong
Herald Sun

 A Labor senator is barred from one party meeting after she crossed the floor  to support a Greens motion on Palestinian statehood, condemned as part of a  "hate-filled campaign" to fuel division in Australia.
 Under pressure to censure Senator Fatima Payman, Anthony Albanese revealed he  had spoken with the West Australian backbencher on Wednesday and she would  "not be attending" Labor's caucus meeting next week.
 The Coalition described the incident as a test of the Prime Minister's  leadership, arguing it would be "weak" if there were no  consequences for Senator Payman.
 Historically Labor members who break ranks in parliamentary votes have been  temporarily suspended or even expelled from the party, but the consequence  for Senator Payman was limited to the one-off ban from a meeting ordinarily  held every week parliament is sitting.
 On Tuesday night Senator Payman shocked her Labor colleagues by crossing the  floor to vote in favour of a motion put forward by the Greens recognising  Palestinian statehood.
 The Albanese government's position on the issue is to only support a  Palestinian state as part of a peace process moving toward a two-state  solution.
 Unlike their Coalition counterparts, Labor MPs and senators are not permitted  to vote against their own party.
 Senator Payman's decision made Mr Albanese the first Labor PM faced with  enforcing the rule, which can include consequences such as suspension or  expulsion from the party, since Bob Hawke in 1986.
 Prior to the announcement Senator Payman would not attend caucus, Labor MPs  were divided over whether she should be suspended or face some penalty for  her actions.
 Several MPs were "frustrated" and "annoyed" that her  decision to cross the floor, which Senator Payman claimed was a choice made  in the moment, undermined the unity expected across Labor during votes on  controversial issues.
 "This is a sensitive issue, but there are plenty of other times MPs who  would have liked to cross the floor did not," a Labor MP said.
 Another MP said it had been a long time since the rule had been  "tested", which now "posed the question are the floodgates  open on future issues".
 Opposition Leader Peter Dutton took aim at Mr Albanese during question time,  demanding to know if he would show "strength of leadership" and  suspend Senator Payman from Labor.
 Mr Dutton said Senator Payman was backing a "hatefilled campaign"  being run by the Greens to "ferment social divisions" on Palestine.
 Mr Albanese said Labor supported a two-state solution, reiterating his  condemnation of the October 7 attacks against Israel by terror group Hamas  and expressing his "great concern" about the humanitarian crisis in  Gaza.
 Earlier, Coalition home affairs spokesman James Paterson said the incident  was a "direct challenge" to Mr Albanese's authority.
 "If he fails that, if there are no consequences for Senator Payman, then  not just ... in my eyes, will he be a weak Prime Minister but in the eyes of  his own caucus members," he said. JAMES CAMPBELL, PAGE 27 "This is  a sensitive issue, but there are plenty of other times MPs who would have  liked to cross the floor did not A Labor MP

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