Q&A: Sam Dastyari says Gladys Liu should quit parliament | Australia news
The former Labor senator Sam Dastyari has said the embattled Liberal MP Gladys Liu should quit parliament, as he repeated his call for a ban on all political donations.
Declaring himself a “symbol of the system being broken”, the one-time New South Wales Labor powerbroker also used his appearance on the ABC’s Q&A program to rail against the influence of money on politics, saying he believed Australia’s climate policies would be “very different” if it were removed from the political system.
Dastyari, who in 2017 quit in disgrace over his dealings with the Chinese billionaire and political donor Huang Xiangmo, revealed on Monday that he had tried to call Liu repeatedly over the past few days.
“I can only imagine what Gladys Liu is going through,” Dastyari said on Monday night.
“Let’s not forget there are real people at the end of this, real people … I’ve the past couple of days been trying to call her repeatedly. I think the best thing she can do for herself, for her cause that she believes, for her party, is to actually leave parliament. That’s my personal view.”
Dastyari appeared on the program alongside the Liberal senator James Paterson, the Labor senator Madeleine King, the social commentator Eva Cox and the China expert John Lee of the United States Studies Centre.
Paterson attacked Dastyari for having associated with Huang, whom the Liberal senator described as “someone whose citizenship was rejected on character grounds”. Huang, a major donor to both political parties, was denied re-entry to Australia and had his permanent residency revoked this year.
He rejected comparisons between the circumstances of Dastyari and Liu because she had raised money for the Liberal party, while the Labor politician had accepted money personally from Huang.
But Paterson said Liu would “acknowledge herself” that she should have been “more judicious in some of her associations, particularly with the Chinese community organisations”.
Liu, who has declined to make a statement to parliament or face the media, has faced mounting pressure after she first denied any involvement with Chinese Communist party-linked organisations, before later backtracking and promising to audit all the memberships she holds.
Labor has stopped short of calling for Liu to quit but said she should make a statement to parliament over undeclared Liberal party donations and previous links to the Communist party.
“I … think by and large it’s a good thing that we are now living in a much more hypersensitive environment to those things. However, in doing so, we have to be really, really careful that we don’t inadvertently or otherwise cast aspersions about good Australians who love this country … who happen to be Chinese.”
Brushing off criticism from Paterson and Lee about the scandal, Dastyari said he had paid the price for his conduct by quitting the Senate.
He acknowledged he had been “used by Chinese agents of influence” but said “that’s on me”. “I let myself get used. I’m not shirking that responsibility.”
With the NSW Labor party in crisis over revelations from the state’s latest Independent Commission Against Corruption hearings, Dastyari also repeated his support for a ban on all political donations and called for the public funding of elections and a federal Icac.
“The entire culture of donations and fundraising I think has become completely corrupted,” he said.
“And I say this not as some kind of university academic who has sat in some ivory tower and never fundraised or done this, I’m saying this as probably one of if not the biggest fundraisers the Labor party ever saw.”