Bill Shorten

Audio emerges of Sam Dastyari contradicting Labor’s South China Sea policy

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Embattled Labor Senator Sam Dastyari made the comments while standing beside a Chinese billionaire who has donated to both the Labor and Liberal parties.

As he dismisses claims he breached Australia’s national security, a recording has surfaced of Labor Senator Sam Dastyari taking a pro-China stance amidst the long-running South China Sea dispute.

The audio, obtained by Fairfax, the ABC and Channel Nine, is reportedly from a June 2016 press conference in Sydney in which Senator Dastyari spoke to Chinese media alongside donor Huang Xiangmo.

“The Chinese integrity of its borders is a matter for China, and the role that Australia should be playing, as a friend, is to know, that with the several thousand years of history … where it is and isn’t our place to be involved,” Mr Dastyari said in the recording.

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Audio emerges of Sam Dastyari contradicting Labor’s South China Sea policy
Audio emerges of Sam Dastyari contradicting Labor’s South China Sea policy

“The Australian Labor Party needs to play an important role in maintaining that relationship, and the best way of maintaining that relationship is knowing when it is and isn’t our place to be involved.”

His comments, which contradict Labor’s official position, resulted in his demotion within the Labor Party in September 2016.

This is the first time the entirety of his answer has become public. The Australian media wasn’t invited to the press conference and the only record of Mr Dastyari’s comments was through Chinese media reports.

Mr Dastyari told the ABC earlier this year his comment was a “garbled answer” and repeatedly acknowledged it was the wrong position to take.

It’s another headache for the New South Wales senator, who has defended himself against allegations he warned Mr Huang his phone was being tapped by Australian intelligence agencies.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called on Senator Dastyari to consider his position.

“Why on Earth was he providing that counter-surveillance advice to Mr Huang? Whose side is he on?” Mr Turnbull asked reporters at a press conference.

“Is he on the side of the agencies that keep us safe or is he on the side of a foreign government?”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he had disciplined Mr Dastyari on Wednesday morning.

“I wouldn't have wanted to be Sam Dastyari when he got a phone call from Bill Shorten this morning,” Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek told reporters in Adelaide.

“Bill has made it very clear that Sam has already had one breach of judgement, this is a second breach of judgement and there better not be a third one.”

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