Embattled Labor senator Sam Dastyari had a long day in the Senate on Thursday, choking back tears as he delivered an emotional speech.
Mr Dastyari has been under fire since leaked audio emerged of comments he made on the South China Sea, contradicting his previous statements on the matter.
Calls from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for Mr Dastyari to leave parliament were echoed by Australian Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi and Liberal senator Eric Abetz.
‘Today is the day they need to shanghai Sam Dastyari out of this place,’ said Mr Bernardi.
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Embattled Labor senator Sam Dastyari (pictured) had a long day in the Senate on Thursday, choking back tears as he delivered an emotional speech
Mr Dastyari (pictured) has been under fire since leaked audio emerged of comments he made on the South China Sea, contradicting his previous statements on the matter
‘It’s not strike one, strike two or strike three. He has a repeated pattern of being captured by people that are very, very close to the Chinese government.
‘You don’t have to be Einstein to put two and two together to recognise there is a serious problem.
‘We know that there are politicians, or at least one, who have had personal accounts paid by Chinese billionaires with very close connections to the communist party.’
Mr Abetz went a step further, calling on Labor leader Bill Shorten to remove Mr Dastyari from the party.
‘Clearly there are very serious questions about Senator Dastyari’s integrity and credibility,’ he said.
‘Foreign investment is welcome, but national security has to be paramount.’
Calls from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for Mr Dastyari (pictured) to leave parliament were echoed by Australian Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi and Liberal senator Eric Abetz
Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm said Senator Dastyari’s actions were only a concern if they were in response to political donations.
Senator Leyonhjelm highlighted Chinese influence in stalling negotiations on a free trade agreement with Taiwan, which China claims as part of its territory.
‘China is very influential in Australia in all sorts of ways,’ he said.
In his first speech Mr Dastyari described the damage his dealings with Chinese political donors has had on his young family.
But the emotion had drained from his voice by the time he was hauled before the Senate again hours later to deliver a second statement.
In his first speech Mr Dastyari (pictured) described the damage his dealings with Chinese political donors has had on his young family
But the emotion had drained from Mr Dastyari’s (pictured) voice by the time he was hauled before the Senate again hours later to deliver a second statement
The excitable Labor senator for NSW usually seeks out the spotlight – but not on Thursday.
Dastyari sat slumped in his Senate chair on Thursday morning 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 vacated the chamber by the time Attorney-General George Brandis (pictured) said it was ‘pathetically weak’ for Mr Shorten to give him another ‘summer sabbatical’ to overcome his latest embarrassment
Mr Dastyari met with Huang Xiongmo (pictured) at the businessman’s Sydney mansion in October 2016
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 children, 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.
Sam Dastyari (pictured, far right, with former prime minister Julia Gillard, second right, and Huang Xiongmo, second left) had previously said he had only ‘incorrectly’ mumbled an answer backing Beijing’s controversial policy when asked by Chinese reporters
‘Today is the day they need to shanghai Sam Dastyari out of this place,’ said Mr Bernardi (pictured)
‘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.’
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.
And 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’.
Outside in the prime minister’s courtyard, Malcolm Turnbull was also going on the attack.
The PM demanded Dastyari leave parliament over what he called ‘disloyal conduct of the highest order’.
Liberal senator Eric Abetz (pictured) called on Labor leader Bill Shorten to remove Mr Dastyari from the party
Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm (pictured) said Senator Dastyari’s actions were only a concern if they were in response to political donations
‘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.
Many miles away, Bill Shorten was cutting Dastyari adrift, admitting he had lost faith in his beleaguered backbencher.
‘That is why I have sacked him again,’ Shorten said in Adelaide. ‘He has a long, long journey to rebuild trust.’
The Senate later passed a motion forcing Dastyari to return and offer a longer explanation. He fronted up after Question Time but covered little new ground.
And as senators voted against debating his second offering, all that was left for Dastyari to do was tuck the speech under his arm and depart the chamber again.
SENATOR 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.