Fatima Payman criticised by Anthony Albanese Gaza genocide comments



Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young accused the opposition of “intimidation, bullying and harassment to a high order” and making the workplace unsafe for Payman.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong accused the opposition of trying to politicise the war in Gaza, saying: “This is a government that does represent the community more completely than any government in Australia’s history.

“It is a government that does represent, that does have members and senators from a wide range of faiths and perspectives and cultural heritage.”

Asked about Payman’s comments during question time in the House of Representatives, Albanese said: “The chant, from the river to the sea, has been used from time to time by some in the pro-Palestinian movement, by some who argue that Israel should be just one state as well and that Gaza and the West Bank should be wiped out, it is inappropriate.”

“I very strongly believe in a two-state solution. I strongly believe in the right of Israel to exist within secure borders. I strongly believe as well in the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people.”

Albanese declined to directly address a question by Liberal MP Julian Leeser, who is Jewish, about whether Albanese would remove Payman from her position on the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.

Earlier in the day, Albanese said he had not spoken to Payman since she made the remarks, describing her as “a young senator from Western Australia”.

Payman, 29, was born in Afghanistan and is the first Muslim woman to wear a hijab in the federal parliament.

Payman told a small group of reporters on Wednesday: “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.

“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.”

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Asked about the “river to the sea” phrase, Health Minister Mark Butler said: “The phrase that she used is not a phrase that would ever escape my lips.

“It’s fundamentally inconsistent with the long-standing position of the Labor Party and Australia for a two-state solution to the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine.

“This phrase is fundamentally inconsistent with the ongoing existence of the only Jewish state on the planet.”

Asked if it was appropriate for Payman to use the word genocide, Defence Minister Richard Marles said that “it’s not the word I would use”.

A spokeswoman for Labor early childhood education minister Anne Aly said she did not want to comment on the issue.

Opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson said Albanese faced a “very serious test of his leadership” after Payman’s comments.

“Senator Payman has repeated a phrase and endorsed a phrase that the prime minister has said is a violent statement that has no place in our country,” Paterson said.

“Secondly, in doing so, she has outed herself as an opponent to a two-state solution and peace in the Middle East, and demonstrated she’s an advocate of a one-state solution.”

Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, said Payman’s comments were a “stain upon the Labor Party”.

“We appreciate that the government has distanced itself from Senator Payman’s extremism and implied endorsement of the Hamas agenda, labelling her comments ‘inappropriate’,” he said.

“However, this does not seem sufficient consequence for her actions, given the effects they will have on Australia’s social cohesion at a time when it is already under severe threat.”

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