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‘Not appropriate’: PM responds to rogue senator

Written by on May 16, 2024

Anthony Albanese says it’s “not appropriate” a West Australian Labor senator used a controversial chant when she broke ranks with the government’s position on Palestine as the Coalition heaps on pressure on him to “take action”.

On Wednesday, Fatima Payman accused Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and questioned how many more deaths would be needed before the Prime Minister declared “enough”.

In a significant split from the Labor Party’s position, the Muslim senator called for sanctions and divestment from Israel and declared “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – a phrase Mr Albanese has previously condemned as a violent opposition to a two-state solution.

She said the phrase was a call for “freedom from the occupation, freedom from the violence, and freedom from the inequality”.

Mr Albanese on Thursday morning was asked if he had spoken to Senator Payman since she made the comments, to which he gave an emphatic “no”.

He said he did speak to her regularly, as he does all his Labor Party colleagues, and their last conversation was “very pleasant”.

But he said her use of the politically charged phrase was “not appropriate” and did not reflect the Labor Party’s position.

“What is appropriate is a two-state solution, where both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in security and peace and prosperity,” he told ABC Radio.

“It is not in the interests of either Israelis or Palestinians to advocate there just be one state. That is a forerunner of enormous conflict and grief.”

Coalition home affairs spokesman James Paterson said the Prime Minister “has to take action”, noting Senator Payman had “laid down the gauntlet” to Mr Albanese.

“She’s used a phrase the Prime Minister himself has agreed is a violent statement. She’d endorsed the phrase, and in the Prime Minister’s own analysis, people who make this statement are in opposition to a two-state solution,” Senator Paterson told Sky.

“She’s not just undermined decades of bipartisan foreign policy, she’s undermined decades of Labor Party policy.

“The Prime Minister has said this phrase has no place in Australia. Surely he cannot (have) a member of his caucus saying this.”

Senator Payman gave a statement to a small selection of media on Wednesday on Nakba Day – the anniversary of Israel’s 1948 establishment – where she acknowledged there was “disillusionment” in the community with the political parties.

“Today, more than ever, is the time to speak the truth – the whole truth – with courage and clarity,” she told SBS News and Capital Brief.

“My conscience has been uneasy for far too long. And I must call this out for what it is. This is a genocide and we need to stop pretending otherwise.”

Mr Albanese said the scenes coming out of Gaza were “very traumatic”, but Jewish Australians were also experiencing “a lot of trauma” due to rising anti-Semitism.

“People who happen to be Jewish are being held responsible here for the actions of the Netanyahu government. I don’t believe that is appropriate,” he said.

Senator Paterson said Senator Payman’s call for Australia to end trade with Israel especially at a time of rising anti-Semitism would “further undermine and test social cohesion”.

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