Labor senator Sam Dastyari has resigned from Labor’s frontbench after mounting criticism on the payments he received from a Chinese-linked company.
Senator Dastyari was the manager of opposition business in the Senate and spokesman for consumer affairs. He will now sit on the backbench of the Upper House.
On Tuesday he apologised for allowing the company to pay off a $1,600 travel debt he owed to the Commonwealth, saying that accepting the donation was “within the rules but it was wrong”.
“I made a mistake and I am paying the price for that mistake,” he said.
“I fell short of the duty I owe to the people I am so proud to represent. I accept that and I’m here to make it clear I accept the consequences.”
At the time, Senator Dastyari said he had not offered nor had he been asked for a resignation.
But on Wednesday, he said he did not want the controversy surrounding the donations to distract from Labor’s attacks on the Coalition’s policy.
“The last thing a Government as bad and divided as this one deserves is a free pass,” he said.
“I refuse to be the reason they escape proper scrutiny.”
The resignation follows mounting attacks from Government MPs calling on Senator Dastyari to resign. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had asked whether Senator Dastyari’s reported divergence from Labor’s policy on the South China Sea was because of the donation from the Chinese-linked company.
The Senator said no donors had asked for anything in exchange for the funds, but despite repeated questioning, he has not explained why he decided to ask Top Education to cover his bill.
“No-one has ever asked for anything in return, nor would I have done anything in return,” he said.
Mr Shorten has confirmed he accepted the resignation.
“It’s the measure of the man that he can stand up, admit he got it wrong and accept the consequences,” Mr Shorten said in a statement.
“Sam is a young bloke with a bright future ahead of him. He has a lot more to offer Labor and Australia. I’m confident he will continue to make a strong contribution to my team and continue standing up for the things that matter to all Australians — good jobs, good schools, and protecting Medicare.”
Shadow finance minister Andrew Leigh said it was possible Senator Dastyari could eventually make a comeback.
“Of course he should have a second chance,” Mr Leigh said.
“I think Sam has paid a heavy price for what he did, but he’s somebody who has a unique ability to cut through. If the rule in Australia is that any mistake is a hanging error, then we’re going to end up with a much more boring Parliament.”
South Australian senator Nick Xenophon said Senator Dastyari had done the right thing by resigning.
“He needs to probably spend a bit of time in the so-called political wilderness before he bounces back,” he told the ABC.
Treasurer Scott Morrison was quick to attack Mr Shorten’s support of Mr Dastyari.
“Who’ve would’ve thought that Sam Dastyari had higher standards than Bill Shorten,” he said.
“I mean, it’s Sam Dastyari who’s taken the decision today, it was Bill Shorten who was continuing to defend him.”
Senator Dastyari said he would remain in Federal Parliament. It remains unclear who will take over from Senator Dastyari as manager of opposition business in the Senate or as shadow minister for consumer affairs.