Labor senator Sam Dastyari is in trouble after taking $1670 from a Chinese businessman to cover his travel expenses

Senator Sam Dastyari. Photo: Stefan Postles/Getty Images.

Labor senator Sam Dastyari is facing major political pressure today after Fairfax Media revealed last night that after Dastyari’s office overspent his taxpayer-funded travel budget, he sent the $1,670.82 bill to a Chinese education business with close links to the Communist government to pay.

Liberal MP Michael Sukkar said Dastyari demonstrated a “pattern of behaviour that here raises the question: is Sam Dastyari a fit and proper person to be in our Parliament, let alone manager of opposition business in the Senate?”

Liberal senator Cory Bernardi said the expense payment by the Sydney-based Top Education Institute had “all the hallmarks of a dodgy deal”, adding that the company’s close links to the Chinese government meant it was “cause for a Senate inquiry”.

“It has the stench of corruption,” he said.

“We have Sam Dastyari, who is now the manager of opposition business in the Senate, railing about corporate corruption and yet we have a circumstance where on the 12th October, 2015, he declared that his debt for his mismanagement of his office budget, his debt to the Commonwealth, was paid by the Top Education Institute.”

Senator Dastyari disclosed the payment on his register of interests in October last year after the Department of Finance sent him the invoice in April 2015.

When the details emerged overnight, Dastyari called it a “fair yarn”, saying he understood the concerns and would donate a similar sum to charity.

Today, the Labor powerbroker, who used to run the NSW branch, and in Canberra has built a reputation in recent years by railing against corruption in banking and foreign companies who don’t pay their fair share of tax, conceded it was wrong to let the Chinese company cover the expense owed to the Commonwealth.

The payment emerged just a day after Chinese businessmen Huang Xiangmo, chair of China-based developers Yuhu Group, complained in the state-run Global Times newspaper, that Chinese donors were being used as a “cash cow” by Australia’s political parties and it was time to demand more influence.

The Yuhu Group paid a $40,000 legal bill owed by Dastyari from his time as NSW Labor general secretary, after he was sued by an advertising company.

Last month Dastyari was in the news after appearing on ABC TV’s QandA panel show beside Pauline Hanson, who asked him if he was Muslim. The Iranian-born senator describes himself as a “non-practising Muslim”.

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