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Dastyari quits Senate over Chinese links

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Embattled Labor senator Sam Dastyari has quit the federal parliament amid intense scrutiny of his interactions with a Chinese businessman and political donor.

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The NSW representative and factional colleague of Bill Shorten was sacked from his senior parliamentary roles by the Labor leader last week.

He’s now “decided” the best service he can render the federal party is to not return to the Senate in 2018.

“I’ve not reached this decision lightly,” he said in Sydney today.

“But in my deliberations, I’ve been guided by my Labor values, which tell me that I should leave if my ongoing presence detracts from the pursuit of Labor’s mission.

“It is evident to me we are at that point, so I will spare the party any further distraction.”

The soon-to-be ex-senator said he was a “loyal, patriotic Australian”.

“I leave knowing that I’ve always honoured my parliamentary oath,” he said.

Shorten said it was the right decision.

“Sam Dastyari is a good, decent and loyal Australian, and an effective parliamentarian, but his judgement has let him down and now he has paid the heaviest price,” he said in a statement.

“I am sure Sam will continue to make a valuable contribution to our country in whatever he chooses to do.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday challenged Labor, saying if Senator Dastyari was allowed to remain it would be shocking.

“Dastyari has quite plainly been acting in the interests of another government or another power,” Turnbull told ABC TV’s Q&A program.

The Coalition government had asked the Senate’s powerful privileges committee to investigate Senator Dastyari’s conduct after it was revealed he had told Communist Party-aligned businessman Huang Xiangmo – who’s donated to both Labor and the coalition – his phone was probably being tapped by Australian agencies.

Huang’s company last year paid Dastyari’s personal legal bills and the businessman had appeared with him at a media conference held for Chinese media, where he contradicted Labor’s position on the South China Sea issue.

Dastyari said he would continue to be an active, grassroots NSW Labor Party member.

The party now has a few months to choose his replacement, who needs to be endorsed by a joint sitting of the NSW parliament, which is unlikely to happen before February 6, 2018.

Federal parliament is due to resume in February.

SAM DASTYARI AND HIS CHINESE LINKS

August 2013: Sam Dastyari elected to the Senate to replace Matt Thistlethwaite who quit to run for a lower house seat.

2015: ASIO cautions Labor and the Liberals against taking donations from two businessmen – Huang Xiangmo and Dr Chau Chak Wing – suspected of being conduits to the Chinese Communist Party.

June 2016: Dastyari defends China’s actions in the South China Sea during a press conference to Chinese journalists, attended by Huang. “The Chinese integrity of its borders is a matter for China,” he said, contradicting Labor policy outlined by its then defence spokesman just days earlier. Details of the press conference were revealed in September 2016, at which time Dastyari said he had only “incorrectly” mumbled an answer to a question he should not have taken.

August 31, 2016: Government documents reveal the Top Education Institute – a Chinese higher education provider – paid Dastyari’s $1670.82 excess travel bill. Dastyari admits in parliament he should have paid the bill himself.

September 5, 2016: New details emerge that Dastyari failed to declare two bottles of wine worth $700 given by big Chinese donors.

September 6, 2016: Shorten tells off his “junior senator” but will not sack him. Dastyari bumbles through a 26-minute press conference where he admits he was wrong to have a Chinese donor pay outstanding bills. He remains defiant that he did not provide political favours in return for the payments.

September 7, 2016: Quits Labor shadow ministry and role as manager of opposition business in the Senate.

October 2016: Met with Huang at the businessman’s Sydney mansion and reportedly told him they should leave their phones inside while they spoke outside, as a counter-surveillance measure, and warned him his phone may be tapped.

February 2017: Appointed deputy opposition whip in the Senate.

June 2017: ABC’s Four Corners reports Dastyari lobbied for Huang to secure Australian citizenship. He says such efforts were part of his job and his office had dealt with hundreds of citizenship matters since he was elected.

November 28, 2017: Fairfax reports on the October 2016 meeting with Huang. Full audio of the June 2016 press conference emerges, contradicting the senator’s September 2016 explanation.

November 29, 2017: Bill Shorten tells Dastyari he must resign senior parliamentary positions, including as deputy opposition whip in the Senate. Dastyari says he is “shocked” the audio does not match his recollection of what he said at the press conference.

December 11, 2017: New reports Dastyari attempted to persuade deputy party leader Tanya Plibersek in early 2015 not to meet an activist who had upset the Chinese Government.

December 12, 2017: Dastyari announces he will quit the Senate, “guided by my Labor values” and to prevent further damage to the party.

– AAP

 

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