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Payman potshots only expose Labor to self-harm

Labor would do well to draw a line under its loss of Senator Fatima Payman from its ranks. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

Labor will only harm itself by a silly attempt to discredit Fatima Payman, says political columnist MICHELLE GRATTAN.

Labor would do well to draw a line under its loss of Senator Fatima Payman from its ranks, instead of taking more pot shots to try to discredit her.

Michelle Grattan.

According to a report in The Australian, senior Labor figures are now raising questions about her eligibility to sit in parliament, under the Constitution’s section 44, because she could be a dual citizen.

This attack is brazen and over-the-top.

Payman, born in Afghanistan, made proper efforts to renounce her Afghan citizenship, which is not easy, given the complications posed by that chaotic country. Legal advice indicated she’d done enough.

Are the ALP rumour-mongers saying the Labor Party did not do the proper checks about her eligibility? That’s hard to believe, since Section 44, which cut a swathe through a batch of MPs a few years ago, is burned into the mind of every party official who oversees vetting candidates.

Indeed, have the rumour-mongers forgotten what the party said at the time?

An April 2022 story in the Sydney Morning Herald quoted then WA Labor state secretary Tim Picton: “Ms Payman has taken all reasonable steps to renounce her Afghan citizenship in light of the situation in Afghanistan.

“The ALP has obtained legal advice from senior counsel, and we are confident that Ms Payman is eligible to sit in the Australian Parliament.”

As for this matter just popping up now – as the saying goes, it would make a cat laugh.

Labor cannot afford to let Payman’s defection get under its skin to the extent it has.

Losing one of its own in the Senate in this way has been a humiliating slap in the face for Anthony Albanese. There are many reason for his and colleagues’ angst, but one is that it calls into question Labor’s claims about being its own version of a broad church.

The PM on Friday was anxious to reassert “we’re the most diverse caucus that there has ever been”. But events showed that, rightly or wrongly, diversity couldn’t be accommodated when it was tested by Payman’s stand over Gaza.

Obviously it’s hard for Labor to resist the temptation to show it did everything it could to support Payman and to argue it was the victim of a plot for her defection that was in the making for some time.

But to demonise her carries the big risk that it alienates many Muslims out in the community, and fuels what looks to be a growing Muslim political movement, with its adherents deeply angry about what’s happening to Gaza. This could harm Labor electorally.

Albanese spoke strongly on Friday about the danger of “faith-based” parties arising.

He said he didn’t “want Australia to go down the road of faith-based political parties, because what that will do is undermine social cohesion.

“It is not in the interest of smaller minority groups to isolate themselves, which is what a faith-based party system would do,” he said.

When Payman’s course was uncertain, Labor was anxious she didn’t become a martyr. Now she’s gone from the government’s ranks, if Labor wants to limit her martyrdom the best it can do is to have a few respectful lines – regretting it came to this, acknowledging views differ, etcetera – and move on.

Meanwhile Peter Dutton is conjuring up a spectre of successful Muslim candidates being players in an Albanese second-term government.

If there was a Labor minority government,“it will include the Greens, it’ll include the Green-teals, it’ll include Muslim candidates from western Sydney, it will be a disaster,” the opposition leader said on Thursday.

(For a man who wants people to think he could actually win at the election, talk about the composition of an Albanese minority government sounds an admission of defeat.)

The outbreak of speculation about the potential power of a Muslim political movement has injected a dangerous brew of religion and race into the run-up to the next election.

Pauline Hanson, for one, was quickly out recalling her old lines.

This highly combustible mix can also inflame the debate about immigration, which has been running strongly, with both sides committed to reducing the numbers but Dutton pledging to go further.

Dutton has to be particularly careful with his words, because critics regularly accuse him of playing a racist card.

We don’t know what the Liberals would do with their preferences, if Muslim candidates contested western and south western seats.

What we know is that the Middle East issue is not going away in the foreseeable future. And locally, one way or another the Muslim community is demanding a greater voice for its views and issues.

Whether Payman plans to play a major role in leading and organising that voice, via a new political party or in some other role, in addition to using her senate platform, remains an unknown.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra. Republished from The Conversation.

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Michelle Grattan

Michelle Grattan

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4 Responses to Payman potshots only expose Labor to self-harm

cbrapsycho says: 6 July 2024 at 1:22 pm

The Labor party’s vindictiveness is disgusting and to resort to scare-mongering as well is plain stupid. We already have faith based parties, or don’t the various Christian parties count as faith based?

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Jack says: 7 July 2024 at 5:02 pm

The foundation of the Australian Labor Party is solidarity. Like it or not, every person who runs as a candidate for the ALP knows they are bound to vote with the caucus. Payman never should have been selected to run for the ALP as she obviously doesn’t subscribe to that concept. It was obvious she knew what she was doing and Albanese should have shown some leadership and sacked her rather than the half step of suspending her once she said she’d do it again. This is what the ALP reaps by moving away from looking out for low income working people and competing with the Greens for the far left vote.

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Bryant Allen says: 7 July 2024 at 5:03 pm

Labor requires all Parliamentarians to support a so-called two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict but fails to recognize that Israel has done everything possible over the prtesvious 50 years to sabotage any two-state solution. including ignoring 45 UN resolutions and settling 500,000 illegal settlers in the West Bank. Labour would be better off recognizing Fatima Payman’s courage to be honest about this situation.

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