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Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Labor senator Fatima Payman has crossed the floor to support a motion moved by the Greens declaring “the need for the Senate to recognise the State of Palestine”.

Although the stand of Payman invited a sanction by her party – which demands that its parliamentarians stick by the party line in votes – a government spokesperson quickly made it clear she won’t face discipline.

Given the sensitivity of the issue, action against the 29-year-old Payman, a Muslim born in Kabul, would be provocative and counter-productive.

The Greens motion was defeated, 52-13, with both Labor and the Coalition voting against.

Earlier, Payman abstained in the votes on Labor and Liberal amendments, both of which were defeated.

The government amendment sought to make recognition “part of a peace process in support of a two state solution and a just and enduring peace”. The opposition amendment sought to add a list of preconditions onto the Labor amendment.

Payman said after the vote: “What you just witnessed was the first Labor member to cross the floor in almost 30 years. My decision to cross the floor was the most difficult decision I have had to make”.

She said that although “each step I took across the Senate floor felt like a mile, I know I did not walk these steps by myself, and I know I did not walk them alone. I’ve walked with the West Australians who have stopped me in the streets and told me not to give up. I’ve walked with the rank-and-file Labor Party members who told me we must do more.

“I’ve worked with the core values of the Labor Party, equality, justice, fairness and advocacy for the voiceless and the oppressed.”

Payman said she was “not elected as a token representative of diversity”.

She said she was “bitterly disappointed” her Labor colleagues had not felt the same way and she criticised Labor’s attempt to water down the motion.

Asked about Payman’s future, a government spokesperson said:“The senator says she maintains strong Labor values and intends to continue representing the Western Australians who elected her as a Labor senator.

“There is no mandated sanction in these circumstances and previous caucus members have crossed the floor without facing expulsion.

“As reflected in our amendment, the government supports the recognition of a Palestinian state as part of a peace process towards a two-state solution.”

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

ref. Senator Fatima Payman defies Labor solidarity rule to cross floor on pro-Palestine Greens motion –