Labor senator Sam Dastyari has resigned from politics and will not return to the Senate in 2018.
The 34-year-old Senator, who had been attempting a political comeback after resigning from Labor’s frontbench, had been under pressure over his links with a Chinese businessmen and his apparent support for the ruling Communist Party’s position of the South China Sea territorial dispute and contradicts both Australian foreign policy, and Labor’s policy.
“Today, after much reflection, I’ve decided that the best service I can render to the federal parliamentary Labor party is to not return to the Senate in 2018,” Dastyari said.
“I’ve not reached this decision lightly. But in my deliberations, I’ve been guided by my Labor values, which tell me that I should leave if my on going 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.”
Details of his relationship with Chinese businessmen and political donor, Huang Xiangmo, who has close ties to Beijing, have come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks after Fairfax Media detailed a visit by Dastyari to Huang’s Sydney home where he allegedly warned him that his phone was being tapped by governments, including the US.
Dastyari said he leaves “knowing that I’ve always honoured my parliamentary oath. I’ve always acted with integrity, and I remain a loyal, patriotic Australian”.
He denies the allegations from Fairfax and as well as claims this week that he tried to pressure colleague Tanya Plibersek to not meet with a pro-democracy Chinese activist in Hong Kong in 2015 when she was Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman.
The Coalition had been ramping up the political pressure against Labor as it fights to retain the seat of Bennelong in a by-election this weekend. Polling published in The Australian today have the former member, Liberal John Alexander, in a neck-and-neck fight with Labor challenger Kristina Kenneally.
Yesterday, Dastyari appeared to lose the support of his leader, and other colleagues. Bill Shorten sacked Dastyari as the party’s Senate deputy whip last month after damning audio emerged of Dastyari contradicting Labor policy on China at a media conference last year.
The ALP leader said he accepted his word that “he never had, nor disclosed, any classified information” but added that Dastyari showed a lack of judgment in handling the issues.
Shorten said today he’d told the senator “this 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,” the Labor leader said.
Just 18 months ago, the former general secretary of the ALP’s NSW branch, who parachuted into the Senate in 2013, resigned from the ALP’s shadow ministry in the wake of a scandal over a getting an education company with close links to China’s Communist government to pay his travel expenses.
The government has now introduced legislation proposing foreign interference laws that will ban foreign donations and force ex-MPs and others to register if they plan to lobby for overseas interests. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s claims that Dastyari was a “classic case” of foreign interference had enraged Beijing, which lodged a complaint and said his comments poisoned relations and undermined trust.
Chinese media described Australia as “like a piece of chewing gum sticking to the sole of a Chinese shoe”.
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