Rebel Senator Fatima Payman Quits Labor, will Sit as Independent

Rebel Senator Fatima Payman has quit the Labor party and will serve as an independent following her suspension from the caucus.

In a press conference on Thursday, Senator Payman, who said she would not align herself with any Muslim community-affiliated party, questioned the Labor party’s core values.

“Unlike my colleagues, I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of injustice,” the Afghan-born senator said.

“My family did not flee from a war-torn country to come here as refugees, for me to remain silent when I see atrocities inflicted on innocent people.

“Witnessing our government’s indifference to the greatest of our times, makes me question the direction the party is taking.”

The first-term senator from Western Australia faced indefinite suspension from the Labor caucus after breaking ranks to support the Greens’ call for recognizing Palestinian statehood, and she has pledged to do so again if necessary.

Senator Payman will now sit on the crossbench, meaning the government will require an additional vote in the Senate to pass legislation not supported by the opposition.

Payman said she was isolated by her Labor colleagues. Credit: Instagram
Payman said she was isolated by her Labor colleagues. Credit: Instagram

Following her suspension by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for defying Labor’s solidarity rule, Senator Payman expressed her sense of isolation in an Instagram post late Monday, stating she had been “exiled” and cut off from her caucus colleagues.

“I have been excluded from meetings, group chats, and party communications,” she revealed.

“These actions suggest an attempt to pressure me into resigning from the Senate.”

Payman recently announced she would abstain from voting on Senate matters for the remainder of the week – the last before the winter parliamentary recess – “unless a matter of conscience arises where I’ll uphold the true values and principles of the Labor Party”.

This was a direct reference to any further motion on Palestine. Payman crossed the floor last week on a Greens motion. Albanese acted on Sunday after she said she would do the same again if the circumstances arose.

Payman said in her statement that she would use the time “to reflect on my future and the best way to represent the people of Western Australia”.

Senator Fatima Payman. Credit: Instagram
Senator Payman is now set to become an independent. Credit: Instagram

The conflict between the WA senator and Labor centers on the “solidarity” rule requiring MPs to vote as a bloc. However, the government is struggling to explain and justify why this rule is so significant that a young Muslim woman is facing discipline for acting on what she describes as a point of principle.

Discussing how Payman should have behaved, Albanese turned to a football analogy on morning radio.

“I watched the Hawks win their fifth game in a row yesterday,” he told the ABC. “The way that they won was that they’re not the best team on paper, but they act as a team.

“They pass the ball to each other. They don’t just kick at random. They don’t say, ‘We won’t worry about the rules, we’ll throw rather than handball’. They listen to the coach’s instructions.”

But his football anecdote struck a discordant note. It sounded too simplistic for what is a more complex clash over a foundational Labor rule.

Payman’s stance on the substance of the Middle East issue broadly aligns with the ALP platform.

The National Conference states:

a. Supports the recognition and right of Israel and Palestine to exist as two states within secure and recognised borders;

b. Calls on the Australian government to recognise Palestine as a state.

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