Sam Dastyari quits key positions after more damaging China revelations

Senator Sam Dastyari, pictured in the Senate this week. Photo: Alex EllinghausenOpposition Leader Bill Shorten has ordered Labor senator Sam Dastyari to resign from his parliamentary responsibilities following another day of damaging reports about his dealings with businessman and political donor Huang Xiangmo.
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Senator Dastyari will quit his positions as deputy opposition whip in the Senate and as chair of a committee but remain in the Parliament.

The demotion follows Fairfax Media’s revelation that the New South Wales senator warnedthe Chinese Communist Party-linked political donorlast yearthat his phone was likely tapped by government agencies, including the US government.

Before the two spoke, MrDastyarigave MrHuangcounter-surveillance advice, saying they should leave their phones inside and go outside to speak.

The face-to-face meeting between the pair in the grounds of MrHuang’sMosman mansion in Sydney last October came several weeks after MrDastyariquit the frontbench over his dealings with MrHuang.

It also occurred after ASIO briefed senior political figures, including from the Australian Labor Party, that MrHuangwas of interest to the agency over his opaque links to the Chinese government.

Audio obtained by Fairfax and released late on Wednesday revealedthat Senator Dastyari had delivered a deliberate and detailed defence of China’s position in the South China Sea in mid-2016 in defiance of Labor policy.

Weeks after that speech was first reported, andamid fierce scrutiny about why the rising star of the ALP had contradicted Australia’s bipartisan foreign policyon Beijing’s aggressive territorial claims, Dastyari suggested his comments were off the cuff.

“Now I’m not going to be the first or the last backbench Member of Parliament to have taken a foreign policy question they shouldn’t have taken, mumbled it and answered it incorrectly,” he told the ABC’sAustralian Story.

Mr Shorten said this”mischaracterisation” of those comments had made the senator’s position untenable.

“Last night I spoke to Senator Sam Dastyari and told him to resign from his senior Labor positions in the Senate. It is not a decision I took lightly,” the Opposition Leader said in a statement.

“I also told him that while I accept his word that he never had, nor disclosed, any classified information, his handling of these matters showed a lack of judgment.”

Senator Dastyari was forced to resign from the Senate frontbench late last year because of earlier revelations concerning his relationship with Mr Huang and statements on the South China Sea. After setting about rehabilitating his political image, he was given the deputy whip position in February.

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