Senate debates

Thursday, 30 November 2017


Dastyari, Senator Sam

3:02 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President, Special Minister of State) Share this | | Hansard source

Pursuant to order adopted earlier today, I call Senator Dastyari.

3:03 pm

Photo of Sam DastyariSam Dastyari (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the Senate for the opportunity to speak again on this matter. I note that only limited opportunity was provided to me to prepare this response.

As I've previously stated, I became acquainted with Mr Huang Xiangmo as he was a prominent local Chinese community leader in Sydney. As the Senate will appreciate, there are over one million Chinese Australians. It is not uncommon for there to be large community functions regularly at which Chinese community leaders are present. As the general secretary of the Australian Labor Party New South Wales Branch I would regularly be in contact with representatives of every community in New South Wales. These included ethnic, corporate and community organisations. Mr Huang Xiangmo was also a regular attendee at Labor Party functions. I note he attended many Liberal Party functions, too. I have a document of donations data downloaded from the AEC website I would like to table for the benefit of the Senate.

Leave granted.

A series of allegations were published in the Fairfax media on 29 November 2017 regarding a meeting between myself and Mr Huang. As I told Four Corners months ago, after the events of last year I spoke to Mr Huang to tell him that I did not think it was appropriate that we have future contact. I thought it was a matter of common courtesy to say this face to face. Neither my office nor I have spoken to Mr Huang since. This information has been publicly available since June. I utterly reject any assertion that I leaked intelligence information to Mr Huang. Let me reiterate that I have never been provided intelligence information by any Australian security agency. I have never passed on intelligence information; I have never been in possession of any.

In June 2016 I held a press conference that was targeted at Australian-Chinese media and the Chinese-Australian community. Mr Huang was included in the press conference, as the presence of a prominent Chinese community leader would help attract better media coverage from Chinese-language media and their target audience. This is standard media practice for Australian political parties from across the spectrum when seeking to engage with multicultural communities. I do not have the full details of what was said at the press conference; however, I understand footage has been disseminated to media outlets. The topics that were prominent in the Chinese media at the time of the press conference included the Australia-China FTA, negative gearing, the new Chinese ambassador, the South China Sea, Pauline Hanson before she became Senator Pauline Hanson and, significantly, controversy over the Safe Schools program.

At the press conference I made comments that were in breach of Labor Party policy on issues relating to the South China Sea. While I do not have a copy of the transcript of the press conference, I understand a copy of those comments has been disseminated to media outlets. I have never denied that contradicting Labor policy was a significant mistake, and I resigned from the Labor Party front bench over it last year.

I have been a member of the Labor Party since I was 16 years old. I've held numerous positions, including the general secretary of the New South Wales branch, and have had the privilege of being elected as a senator. I understand the importance of collective policy development and the consequences of breaching party discipline. I let myself down and my party down by contradicting party policy, and I paid the appropriate penalty.

More recently my characterisation of the press conference was called into question. A recent audio recording shocked me, as it did not match my recollection of events. I personally take responsibility for the subsequent mischaracterisation. When a public official makes a statement that contradicts events, there are consequences. For me the consequence was being called last night by my leader, Bill Shorten, and being asked to resign from my position in the Labor Senate organisational leadership. I accept the decision of my leader and, accordingly, today I resign my Senate leadership positions.

On 20 November 2014 I declared to the Register of Senators' Interests that Mr Huang's Yuhu Group had made a payment on my behalf for settlement of an outstanding legal matter. This payment has been on the public record for over three years. The existence of this payment has been reported in the media as far back as an article published by Mr James Massola in The Sydney Morning Herald 18 months ago on 28 March 2015 entitled 'Chinese donor steps in to help Sam Dastyari,' which I table for the benefit of the Senate, by leave.

Leave granted.

For the sake of completeness, other gifts and hospitality from companies associated with Mr Huang are also disclosed on my statement of interests for this parliament and the previous parliament in accordance with my obligations to the Senate, noting that I first entered the Senate in 2013. I thank the Senate.