Sam Dastyari today announced he was resigning from the Senate. This has followed further revelations about him appearing to act in the interest of the Chinese Government. Last week it was reported he had questioned defense officials in Senate Estimates 115 over the the South China Sea. This week it was revealed he had tried to prevent Labor Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek from meeting a democracy activist on a trip to Hong Kong.
This was on top of fresh allegations which led to his resignation as Labor Deputy Senate Whip that he’d tipped off Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo that his phone was being bugged by ASIO and that he had parroted Chinese Community Party talking points at a press conference before Chinese state media with Mr Huang at the 2016 federal election. He had resigned from the Labor frontbench in late 2016 after it was revealed he’d asked a Chinese government aligned company to pay an overspend of his travel expenses.
What made Dastyari’s position in the Senate untenable was comments from his Labor colleagues. Yesterday Labor frontbenchers Linda Burney and Catherine King both stated Dastyari should consider his position. Labor’s defence of Dastyari was becoming more shrill by the day with Bill Shorten and Kristina Kennelly claiming government attacks on him were Chinaphobic.
The reaction from senior Labor figures to Dastyari’s resignation has been that he did the wrong thing but has now done the right thing by resigning from the Senate. In his resignation announcement Dastyari maintained he had always been a patriotic Australia and his resignation he believed was the best thing for the federal Labor Party.
It is also worth noting that Dastyari follows previous Labor New South Wales power-brokers in leaving politics prematurely. Despite being to the most powerful faction in the country their Senators have still fallen victim to scandals. Mark Arbib resigned from the Senate in 2012 and was one of Julia Gillard’s key bakers and going back further Graham Richardson resigned from the Senate in 1994 amidst scandal who during his Senate career helped Bob Hawke’s rise and fall as Prime Minister.
During his Senate career Sam Dastyari engaged in a number of parliamentary stunts to promote his profile and gain media exposure. His recently released book ‘One Halal of Story’ was aimed at softening his media image along with a profile on the ABC’s Australian Story. He had also made a concerted campaign to attack conservatives and members of the nationalist movement with the usual slurs of racists and bigots. He was one of Pauline Hanson’s most vocal critics attacking her and her One Nation Party
Many will be glad to see him leave the Senate however it may not be the end of Sam Dastyari’s career in public life. It was reported earlier this month he was eying off a career in television and radio. He had already been very active on his Facebook page with videos in front of a green screen. He has obviously seen Graham Richardson have a successful media career post the Senate despite resigning in scandal and believes he can do the same. He is only 34 years old and will not want to retreat from public eye from the rest of his life.
Sam Dastyari’s resignation press conference is unlikely to be his final media appearance. It is likely he will peruse his political agenda and attack his favorite targets in another forum outside of the Senate.