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Tearful Dastyari delivers mea culpa

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Sam Dastyari rubbed his eyes and choked back tears as he described the damage his dealings with Chinese political donors have had on his young family.

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The excitable Labor senator for NSW usually seeks out the spotlight – but not today.

Dastyari sat slumped in his Senate chair as some colleagues huddled around him and those opposite muttered jibes across the chamber.

Standing sullenly after the morning prayers, he tugged at his tie and glared briefly at press gallery photographers working in overdrive above.

“I rise to make a short statement,” Dastyari told parliament, which fell to pin-drop silence.

Hours earlier, he was forced to resign from senior party positions – for the second time – over comments made at a June 2016 press conference contradicting Labor policy on the South China Sea.

Dastyari had previously said he had only “incorrectly” mumbled an answer backing Beijing’s controversial policy when asked by Chinese reporters.

The embattled Labor senator was forced to walk the plank again after audio emerged which completely jarred with his characterisation of the press conference.

“A recent audio recording shocked me, as it did not match my recollection of events,” Dastyari told the chamber.

“When a public official makes a statement that contradicts events, there are consequences.”

Those consequences extended to his wife and two kids, who had also been thrust into the spotlight.

“Hannah is now six and has to answer questions in the playground. That breaks the heart of any father,” Dastyari said through tears.

“I always intend to put the party first and do not want to be a distraction. I will continue to work as I always have done for the people of New South Wales.”

Outside in the prime minister’s courtyard, Malcolm Turnbull was going on the attack.

The PM demanded Dastyari leave parliament over what he called “disloyal conduct of the highest order”.

“If he refuses to resign, Shorten should dump him from the Labor Party and let him languish in contempt on the crossbench,” he told reporters.

Dastyari vacated the chamber by the time Attorney-General George Brandis said it was “pathetically weak” for Mr Shorten to give him another “summer sabbatical” to overcome his latest embarrassment.

He stayed well away as Liberal senator Ian MacDonald accused him of using his children in a “coward’s defence”, while One Nation leader Pauline Hanson derided his “crocodile tears”.

– AAP

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