A principled resignation from the Australian Genocide Party

5 July 2024
Josh Lees

Western Australian federal Senator Fatima Payman has resigned from the Labor Party after being indefinitely suspended from the caucus and purged from party committees and communications. Her crime? Crossing the Senate floor to support a Greens motion to recognise Palestinian statehood.

As Greens MP Max Chandler-Mather put it, “This Labor gov has done more to sanction Fatima Payman than Israel for committing a genocide”.

“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”, Payman said. “Not just on this matter, but various matters that Western Australians have raised with me, from incarceration rates of Indigenous people, to locking up kids as young as ten years old, from the rising cost of living pressures to families living in cars and tents due to the housing crisis.”

Payman’s resignation highlights, yet again, the contemptible role played by the Albanese Labor government over the last nine months of Israel’s slaughter in Gaza. Labor has rhetorically called for a ceasefire, but on all matters of substance has backed Israel’s genocidal campaign, justifying it as Israel “defending itself”. It has continued to sign deals with Israeli weapons companies, allowed hundreds of Israeli-Australians to participate in the atrocities by fighting with the Israeli military and refused to back international efforts to put pressure on Israel through the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court.

The responses to Payman’s resignation speak volumes about the vacuous, heartless establishment machine that is the modern ALP. Anonymous Labor sources immediately floated that maybe Payman is ineligible to sit in parliament due to her Afghan background—a particularly nasty notion given that her family fled Afghanistan as refugees.

Concerning the Senate vote that sparked Payman’s exit, Labor has tried to argue that it also supports “recognising Palestine” but only as part of a peace process and two-state solution. This only demonstrates what deliberately meaningless phrases these are. There is no peace process; Israel is committing genocide, and no one in the Israeli government or opposition supports the creation of a Palestinian state.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong tried a different angle to attack Payman, thinking that reminding everyone of Labor’s long refusal to support marriage equality—and her own appalling stance during those years—might be a winner. “Even when we disagree, we have those arguments internally, as you saw over many years in the marriage equality debate”. Wong told ABC Radio’s AM program. “That’s what I did, and I think that’s the right way to go about it.”

Underlining this argument is the idea that real change comes from behind closed doors, through polite lobbying, patience and faith in incremental progress within the ALP. This argument has been raised not just by Wong but also by parts of the left in recent years, and more recently in the Palestine campaign, with some saying we should celebrate and give platforms to ALP figures such as Ged Kearney, who claim to be fighting for change inside the party even when they consistently toe the party line and vote for every reactionary bill. We couldn’t possibly demand they cross the floor, one argument goes, because Labor’s rules don’t permit it.

Payman’s stance has blown these arguments out of the water, and exposed all these other Labor politicians as careerist hacks. Not one of them has come to Payman’s defence. The Palestine campaign has been absolutely right to refuse to platform Labor politicians who won’t break ranks with Albanese. We haven’t met them halfway; we have drawn a line in the sand and demanded they pick which side of history they want to stand on.

Payman herself credits the student Gaza solidarity camps for making her realise she needed to break ranks with Labor. When she visited the camps, she was greeted not with scones and grovelling but with plenty of anger at Labor politicians who were supporting Israel’s genocide.

Payman’s current stance is a result of our mass protest movement over these past nine months. Her crossing the floor is a step forward and has done more for the Palestine cause in Australia than anything Penny Wong ever did for marriage equality. In fact, marriage equality was won through years of mass protests and was finally enshrined under a Coalition government—no thanks to Labor and the likes of Wong.

There is no incremental progress in today’s world, if ever there was. We are surrounded by the rise of the racist and fascist right, climate destruction, falling living standards and genocide. Labor is on the wrong side of every question. Change, including Palestinian liberation, will come only through mass defiance of the whole system that Labor supports.

Read More

Red Flag
Red Flag is published by Socialist Alternative, a revolutionary socialist group with branches across Australia.
Find out more about us, get involved, or subscribe.

Original Red Flag content is subject to a Creative Commons licence and may be republished under the terms listed here.