I have repeatedly warned of the crisis of public confidence in politics and its implications for the major parties. That lack of confidence has a new face: Labor Senator Sam Dastyari.
Dastyari is touted by his NSW pals as a political prodigy; a man of boundless energy, enthusiasm and cunning. He is also a man clearly captured by the NSW disease that has brought such disrepute into our body politic.
The NSW disease is the ‘whatever it takes, anything goes’ mantra of Graham Richardson, where the means always justify the ends. It delivered a rotating Lazy Susan of premiers, scandals, corrupt deals and grubby ‘favours’.
The disease proved contagious, with some in the NSW Liberal Party being exposed by ICAC as having the same affliction.
Until now, there was little evidence that the virus had made its way into the Federal Parliament. That was until it was revealed that Sam Dastyari thought it was okay to send his personal bills off to a Chinese government front company for payment.
Let me make this crystal clear. This was not a donation to a political party. This was not a contribution to a campaign account. This was a personal payment, the equivalent of a bag of cash delivered in the back of a Bentley.
Dastyari received a personal account in April of 2015. He was obliged to pay it within 30 days. However, rather than dip into his own pocket and part with a portion of his hefty senatorial salary, he picked up the phone to ask someone else to pick up the tab.
This someone else wasn’t a parent, a relative or a close friend. Instead, Dastyari rang a front company for the Chinese government and asked them to pay the $1670 bill for him. Amazingly, they did so. We still don’t know what questions were asked or even how the request was justified. We just know it was paid.
The payment was declared in October of 2015. Labor are hiding behind this declaration to insist there is nothing wrong with these events.
They are wrong. No clear thinking person can defend this behaviour. It is only Dastyari’s NSW mates and the senseless Senator Lambie that can’t see the wood for the trees. This is a very grubby affair and I suspect it is only the tip of the iceberg.
How does it come to pass that a Senator with the political pedigree of Dastyari thinks it’s okay to have his personal accounts paid by a businessman linked to the Chinese government?
We know it’s not the first time it has happened, with Dastyari previously being bailed out of legal bills by another Chinese benefactor.
What sort of culture is it where a person in a significant public position thinks this is acceptable and, when caught, they are then protected by their colleagues?
It speaks of a sickness that has corrupted the NSW Labor Party and rotted through to its very core.
Dastyari may only be the fall guy for a much bigger problem but he is the one who has been caught with his hand in the Chinese till. The fact that it came to light through his own declaration doesn’t mitigate the crisis he and the Labor Party are facing.
Dastyari hasn’t explained the how and why of his request for money from Chinese government agents. He has failed to explain how they may have influenced his public views on Chinese versus Australian interests. He has failed the common sense and public probity tests.
It is time for Dastyari to come clean. He needs to explain all the links to his mentor Bob Carr’s Chinese funded propaganda institute, what benefits he has received and what he has delivered in return.
He also needs to stand aside or be sacked from Labor’s front bench. A failure to do so will tell us more about the true character of Sam Dastyari and Bill Shorten than a sleazy $1670 bill payment ever will.