Dastyari quits Senate over China links
LABOR'S Sam Dastyari today quit the Senate as the accumulation of questionable ties to Chinese contacts made his continued service impossible.
The 34-year old former party whiz-kid said he wanted to "spare the party any further distraction".
"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," Senator Dastyari said today.
"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 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. I love the Labor Party.
"I know Australia needs a Labor Government and I refuse to let my personal situation put that prospect at risk."
His shock decision followed claims from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton that he was a "double agent" working for China.
The distractions raised by Senator Dastyari centred on his relations with a Chinese businessman living in Australia, Huang Xiangmo. He has been accused by Government figures of promoting Chinese policy in a bid to get donations for the ALP from Mr Huang.
After almost two weeks of political pressure, Senator Dastyari decided he would not return to the Upper House next year. He first sat in it in July, 2013 after working for three years as ALP general secretary in NSW.
His departure will create a casual vacancy and there is speculation it could be filled by Kristina Keneally should she not win the Bennelong by-election on Saturday.
On November 30, the Labor MP was forced from the front bench after his close ties to a Chinese donor were revealed.
The uproar has intruded on Ms Keneally's federal campaign and dragged Opposition Leader Bill Shorten into claims of excessive foreign interference in Australian politics.
Senator Dastyari today said he had acted with integrity and with the best interests of the ALP in mind.
"I have always put the pursuit of the Labor cause first," he said, apparently in response to charges he had contradicted Labor's policy on the South China Sea to please Chinese hosts at a press conference.
"Reflecting on the events that lead to my decision, I leave knowing I have always honoured my parliamentary oath, I've always acted with integrity, and I remain a loyal patriotic Australian."
Bill Shorten said Senator Dastyari had told him of his decision this morning and he agreed.
"I told him I thought this was the right decision. I thanked him for his service to the Parliament, to the state of New South Wales and to the Australian Labor Party," the Opposition Leader said in a statement.
There will be claims Mr Shorten should have made the decision himself and that he was slow to respond to the Dastyari revelations.
"Sam Dastyari is a good, decent and loyal Australian, and an effective parliamentarian, but his judgment has let him down and now he has paid the heaviest price," Mr Shorten said.
"Sam can be proud of what he has achieved during his time as a senator."
Mr Shorten indicated his young colleague had a big future ahead of this controversy.
"Sam is also a talented and tireless campaigner - his passion, organising skills and boundless good humour has engaged a new generation of progressive activists. I am sure Sam will continue to make a valuable contribution to our country in whatever he chooses to do," he said.
In his speech, Senator Dastyari said his parents, Ella and Nasser, fled a war-torn Iran, so that they could start a new life in Australia and he was proud of his achievements as an Australian Senator.
More to come