Senator Fatima Payman resigns from Labor over its support for Israel's genocide in Gaza

July 3, 2024
WA Senator Fatima Payman has been forced to resign from Labor over its refusal to condemn Israel's genocide in Gaza. Photo: Screenshot from SBS News, May 15

Western Australian Senator Fatima Payman, under pressure, announced her resignation from Labor on July 4. Payman refused to abide by Labor caucus discipline over Palestine and Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

Payman said on July 1: “Yesterday, the Prime Minister suspended me indefinitely from the Australian Labor Party caucus.

“Since then, I have lost all contact with my caucus colleagues. I have been removed from caucus meetings, committees, internal group chats, and whips bulletins.

“I have been told to avoid all chamber duties that require a vote, including divisions, motions and matters of public interest.

“I have been exiled.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s ban on Payman was subsequently rubber stamped by the federal Labor caucus.

On July 4, Payman announced that she had been intimidated into resigning. She said she would sit an independent in the Senate. 

Payman, whose family arrived as refugees from Afghanistan in 2003, publicly bucked the government’s shameful pro-Israeli position on May 15.

While Palestine supporters gathered outside parliament to mark Al Nakba, Payman condemned Israel for committing genocide in Gaza, chided Labor for not acting on Israel’s war crimes and called for sanctions and divestment against Israel.

“Instead of advocating for justice, I see our leaders performatively gesture defending the oppressor's right to oppress, while gaslighting the global community about the rights of self defence,” she said.

She ended with the popular chant “From the river to the seas, Palestine will be free”, which the PM has since condemned.

Despite Payman being condemned by Labor, Coalition and far-right MPs (including One Nation leader Pauline Hanson) — furiously egged on by Zionist groups and the corporate media — it appeared, for a while, that Labor was trying to smooth things out with her.

But on June 25, Payman crossed the floor to vote for an unsuccessful Greens urgency motion on “the need for the Senate to recognise the State of Palestine”.

She voted alongside Greens and independent senators David Pocock and Lidia Thorpe, but the motion was lost 52–13.

The next day, the PM told Payman she was banned from caucus meetings for the remaining week of parliamentary sitting.

When Payman spoke out strongly in support of Palestinian recognition on the ABC’s Insiders on June 30, saying she would cross the floor again to vote for recognition of Palestine, Albanese banned her from caucus indefinitely.

Payman told the ABC’s David Speers that she had strong support from Labor’s ranks and that she is acting on the basis of positions and values that Labor’s membership had voted for.

The caucus was not the Labor party, she said.

“This is about 40,000 Palestinians who have been massacred and I know that Australians are a fair people.”

NSW MLC Anthony D’Adam, convenor of the Labor Friends of Palestine, opposed Payman’s banning, as have several trade unions and trade union leaders.

D'Adam told ABC News Afternoon Briefing on July 2: “Most ALP members look at the situation in Gaza and are horrified. They expect the Labor party to be more strident in its criticisms of Israel for what it is doing in Gaza in its disproportionate response to October 7.”

Labor branches across the country have adopted motions calling on the government to take a stronger position.

He added that Labor’s 2023 national conference adopted a position of recognition of Palestine and most people in the community expected that Labor in government would recognise Palestine.

The wording of the short “Israel and Palestine” motion includes calling on the Australian government to “recognise Palestine as a state”; and “that this issue will be an important priority for the Australian Government”.

“The government hasn’t moved on that and now the position has been adjusted to make that recognition conditional on, effectively, agreement by Israel,” D’Adam said.

Zach Smith, National Secretary of the Construction, Forestry and Maritime Employees Union’s Construction Division said: “Senator Payman’s principled stand on Palestine this week undoubtedly strengthened the labour movement. Any suggestion we are weaker because someone stood up for peace, justice and equality makes no sense.”

[This article was updated on July 4.]

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