POLITICS

Sam Dastyari Mea Culpa: 'I Have Never Done Anything For A Donation'

The Labor Senator tried to repair his reputation in trainwreck presser.

06/09/2016 3:22 PM AEST | Updated September 6, 2016 20:19

CANBERRA – Labor frontbencher Sam Dastyari has apologised to his party, the Senate, his family and the Australian public in an exhaustive, trainwreck press conference in Sydney over his acceptance of a payment from a Chinese Government linked company.

Senator Dastyari emerged Tuesday afternoon for the first time since admitting to accepting a $1670 personal donation from the Top Education Institute and then being reported making pro-China comments about the South China Sea dispute.

During Senator Dastyari's testy exchange with the media Tuesday, he disclosed he did not offer the resignation that the Turnbull Government has been seeking and repeatedly offered the phrases "I made a mistake," "I was wrong" and "I support the position of the Labor Party."

The Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate described the debt as "an office travel overspend" which he should have paid, but didn't.

"I take no solace in the fact that it was technically within the rules and it was," Dastyari told reporters in Sydney.

"I should never have asked (Top Education) to do that."

"I should have made the payment myself and I should have reflected on that before doing so. And the fact that it was all disclosed and it is all declared doesn't explain that."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has accused Senator Dastyari of "undermining Australia's foreign policy", while Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has described him as a "puppet" and Senator Brandis said he was "in effect, in the pay of a foreign entity."

On Tuesday night Coalition MPs Christopher Pyne and Barnaby Joyce criticised Dastyari and claimed they would be open to a broader discussion about political donations from foreign investors.

However, Joyce said the political donation conversation was being used as a distraction against Dastyari's wrongs.

"The right thing for him to do is resign and if he won't resign he should be sacked," Pyne said on The Project.

Joyce said Dastyari was not answering questions properly about his position on the South China Sea.

"When he personally got this money, his position did change, or it was vastly different to the Labor Party's position," Joyce said on The 7:30 Report.

Dastyari insists he has never been asked for anything in return for a donation or "nor would have I done anything in return."

"I reject outright any assertion or insinuation or impression that's been pushed by those across politics," he said.

"Any of my statements or decisions have been made for any reason other than the national interest and the public interest, I reject that outright."

The Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate revealed he did not offer his resignation to Labor Leader Bill Shorten, "nor was it asked", but he revealed his leader's anger.

"Bill spoke to me quite forcefully. Bill counselled me quite strongly," he told reporters.

"Bill was quite, frankly, disappointed. He believed that I had made a mistake, which I did."

Earlier, the Labor Leader sought to diminish Dastyari's importance as he announced he was not going to demote him, referring to the Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate as a "bright young man" and a "junior senator from New South Wales" who had made an "imprudent decision."

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