- Senator Dastyari steps down from role on Labor frontbench
- Resignation comes after pressure from Prime Minister Turnbull
An Australian lawmaker has quit the opposition’s frontbench after it was revealed a company with links to the Chinese government paid a A$1,670 ($1,280) travel bill for him.
“I made a mistake,” Labor Senator Sam Dastyari told reporters on Wednesday in Sydney. “I fell short of the duty I owe to the people I’m so proud to represent. I accept that and I’m here to make it clear that I accept the consequences.”
He had declared the expense last October. It was not clear the location the travel bill related to.
Dastyari, 33, had previously apologized for asking the Chinese company to pay the travel bill, while rejecting claims he accepted donations in return for any service. He will remain in parliament. He held the post of opposition spokesman on consumer affairs, and also headed opposition business in the Senate.
The resignation comes after Dastyari was quoted as saying at a media event during this year’s election campaign that “the South China Sea is China’s own affair,” in contrast with the policy of both the opposition Labor party and the ruling coalition that China should respect international law regarding the matter. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in July that China’s efforts to assert control over the region exceeded the law.
The senator’s impartiality was questioned this week by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, of the Liberal Party, who said that Labor leader Bill Shorten needed to “decide whether he is going to continue standing up for Sam Dastyari’s cash for comment.”