ALP fails again

The resignation from the ALP of Senator Fatima Payman after she crossed the floor to vote for a Greens’ motion in support of recognising the State of Palestine has highlighted two critical flaws in the current ALP government.

First, and the reason I have never joined the ALP despite my politics having always leaned left, is the antiquated insistence on caucus solidarity regardless of any contrary position a member may hold for conscientious reasons. Of course success in party politics depends on cohesion around policies that are debated and decided internally but there are some issues on which individuals cannot be expected to support a position contrary to their own conscience. The ALP recognises that it cannot force members to vote contrary to their conscience on matters such as abortion and euthanasia. It needs to recognise that individual members may have strong conscientious positions on other matters. Senator Payman’s life experience as a refugee from Afghanistan gives her a particular perspective on the events in Palestine and her need to vote according to her conscience should have been respected.

Second, and probably worse, is the timidity, even cowardice, of the ALP government and especially those of its members who may have agreed with Senator Payman but could not stand with her. On Wednesday the House of Representatives supported a government motion “that this House endorses the Government’s position to support the recognition of the State of Palestine as part of a peace process in support of a two-state solution and a just and enduring peace” replicating the amendment proposed to the Greens’ Senate motion last week. That insipid effort falls short of solid support for the relevant portion of the 2023 ALP National Platform:
“The National Conference:

  • Supports the recognition and right of Israel and Palestine to exist as two states within secure and recognised borders;
  • Calls on the Australian Government to recognise Palestine as a state; and
  • Expects that this issue will be an important priority for the Australian Government.”

As in so many other matters – income support, whistleblower protection, transparency, nuclear submarines, fossil fuels – the ALP falls short of its own policy aspirations and what Australia needs. Is it time to display the ALP logo upside down in the universal sign of distress? When will we elect a government with clear vision and the courage to lead its implementation?