After Labor Senator Sam Dastyari’s resignation statement today in Sydney, lingering questions remain: what took him so long, and why didn’t Opposition Leader Bill Shorten insist on his resignation sooner?

Shorten should’ve known that simply relegating Dastyari to the backbench, as he did last week, would be insufficient after it emerged that he had lied about contradicting Labor policy in a private briefing with Chinese journalists.

This was on top of accepting money for personal expenses from a Chinese political donor, and subsequently advising the same donor his phone was tapped by the intelligence services.

Dastyari had been stood down once before. He should never have been returned to a position of responsibility after serving a brief penance on the backbench.

Shorten allowed the Dastyari matter to linger for more than a week after Fairfax unearthed further evidence of his inappropriate dealings with the Chinese donor.

He should’ve acted more decisively to avoid suggestions he was yielding to factional pressures to protect Dastyari whose position had become, in any case, untenable.

Effectively, Shorten’s and Dastyari’s hands were forced when prominent figures in the Labor Party demanded he “consider his position’’.

Dastyari was also on the end of a factional leak when it was revealed he had sought to pressure then foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek back in 2015 not to meet a Chinese human rights critic in Hong Kong.

Plibersek is from the left, Dastyari from the right.

By Monday of this week the Labor Senator’s goose was cooked. All that remained was for him to endeavour to salvage some dignity as he walked out the door citing “Labor values’’ as justification for his departure.

What all this demonstrates is that, when it comes to money politics, what this country needs is a National Integrity Commission as a deterrent and a warning to public officials their actions will come under increased scrutiny.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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