EMBATTLED Labor senator Sam Dastyari has quit parliament amid intense scrutiny of his interactions with a Chinese businessman and political donor.
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 on Tuesday.
“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.
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,” Mr 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.
Mr Huang’s company last year paid Senator 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.
The news followed two Labor frontbenchers yesterday questioning whether he could stay in parliament, despite his denial of new revelations about alleged interventions on behalf of Chinese interests.
Linda Burney says Labor leader Bill Shorten took decisive action in sacking the senator from parliamentary leadership positions.
Her colleague Catherine King says Mr Shorten has made it clear the senator’s political career “is in essence, going nowhere”.
“I think that really Sam needs to reflect upon his position,” she told reporters in Melbourne yesterday.
It’s been revealed Senator Dastyari reportedly tried to persuade deputy leader Tanya Plibersek in early 2015 not to meet an activist who had upset China, Fairfax reported.
But a spokesman for Senator Dastyari has rejected the claims as “complete rubbish”.
A spokesman for Ms Plibersek said her “itinerary in Hong Kong, including a meeting with a prominent pro-democracy activist, went ahead precisely as scheduled – I think that speaks for itself”.
“Ms Plibersek doesn’t canvass conversations colleagues may or may not have had with her or her office,” he said.
The government has asked the Senate’s powerful privileges committee to investigate Senator Dastyari’s conduct after it was revealed he tipped off Communist Party-aligned businessman Huang Xiangmo – who has donated to both Labor and the coalition – that his phone was probably being tapped by Australian agencies.
Cabinet minister Peter Dutton again claimed Senator Dastyari was a “double agent” – a description Labor frontbencher Tony Burke labelled a pathetic “overreach”.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott predicted Senator Dastyari would resign on Sunday after the Bennelong by-election.