Statements - Dastyari, Senator Sam


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (10:45): This is one of the most curious debates that I have witnessed in my long period in the Senate. Like most Australians, this is a matter, as reported, that very much concerns me. I'm not an insider. I don't know what happened. I can only go on what I read in the newspapers. I was very pleased that Senator Dastyari was given the opportunity first thing this morning to make a statement in relation to this matter. But he didn't address the allegation at all that he had told a person that he thought he was under surveillance by Australia's intelligence agencies and that, consequently, that person should leave his phone inside while Senator Dastyari and that person went outside to further a conversation about which we know nothing.

I would have thought that Senator Dastyari had the classic opportunity this morning to debunk the report of the investigative journalists or to give an explanation. He did neither. In fact, he didn't even mention it. I find that very, very curious, but what I have found more curious in this debate has been the contribution from Senator Wong and Senator Carr. I've seen Senator Wong and Senator Carr in action in this chamber over a long period. I know Senator Wong was a lawyer working for the CFMEU. I don't know exactly what she did for the CFMEU or as a lawyer, but I assume that she's had a lot of experience in defending members of the CFMEU. I've seen her in this chamber and at estimates defending her people on various issues. I have seen Senator Carr over a long period of time in this chamber and in estimates defending his government when he was a minister, defending individuals and defending public servants. In all cases, both Senator Wong and Senator Carr have done credible jobs as defenders. But the effort that came forward this morning from both, in allegedly defending their colleague on the frontbench, Senator Dastyari, was just incredible. Could I say, if ever I'm in trouble, I'm not going to go to Senator Wong to be my defender.

Senator Wong spoke about everything else except the allegations that have been made against Senator Dastyari. I don't know anything about Senator Dastyari. I made a resolution, as I often do with members opposite, that the less I have to do with him and the less I have to know of him the better. I've never had any personal contact with Senator Dastyari. He once approached me and said he wanted to be my friend, and I said: 'Go away. I'm not interested. You've got nothing in common with me. I don't like the way you operate, so don't approach me.' And he never has since. I don't know much about him, but I know what I read. I would've liked him to tell me today that some of the allegations that have been made are not correct, but he didn't do that.

Senator Carr's defence was one of the most curious defences I've ever seen. He defended Senator Dastyari by, unfortunately, talking about a ban on foreign donations—yet newspaper reports show that Senator Dastyari, of course, has been the recipient, as the general secretary of the New South Wales Labor Party, of substantial donations from foreign individuals, including the one that's mentioned in this particular story. Senator Carr, in somehow defending Senator Dastyari, went onto a discussion about what the Labor Party wants to do with banning foreign donations. He forgot to mention, of course, just as an aside, that they want to ban foreign donations except when it comes to unions and GetUp!, both of which we all know get huge amounts of money from overseas and donate it directly to the Australian Labor Party. Senator Carr was wanting to muddy the waters by talking about that, but, by indicating that he was going to ban some foreign donations but not those from the unions or GetUp!, he couldn't even muddy them properly.

What this has to do with Senator Dastyari I'm not quite sure, but, in Senator Carr's defence of Senator Dastyari, he then talked about the LNP in Queensland and the recent election. What Senator Carr didn't bother to talk about, of course, was that if Annastacia Palaszczuk forms government in Queensland, as looks likely but not certain, she will do it because of preferences from the One Nation political party that went to the Labor Party to give them the numbers to form government. He criticises One Nation but forgets to mention that there is yet another Labor government in power in Australia because of preferences from One Nation being readily accepted by the Australian Labor Party. But what that had to do with the defence of Senator Dastyari, I do not know.

He then made some obtuse accusations or attacks on my friend and colleague Senator Birmingham, who is, without doubt—and I've seen a lot of education ministers come and go—clearly one of the best education ministers this country has ever seen. What that had to do with the defence of Senator Dastyari, I'm not sure. He then talked about someone named 'Lundy' from the other chamber. I don't know any 'Lundys' over there. I guess he's talking about Mr Craig Laundy, a multimillionaire in his own right who, through his own efforts, has made a lot of money. He accused Mr Laundy of somehow wanting money from the Chinese or someone else. I'm sorry: if that's who you're talking about, Senator Carr, I can assure you that Mr Laundy doesn't need money or donations from anyone else.

Senator Carr then chose to defend Senator Dastyari by attacking the Australian Federal Police. He knows, I know, and anyone who has anything to do with the Australian Federal Police will know that they are beyond reproach. I chair the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee at estimates, which interrogates, amongst others, the Australian Federal Police and the intelligence agencies—as you know, Mr Acting Deputy President O'Sullivan, because you've been involved as well. At all occasions, every senator acknowledges the honesty and integrity of the Australian Federal Police, and yet Senator Carr, in his defence—somehow—of Senator Dastyari, sort of accuses the Australian Federal Police of being agents of the government in political campaigns. That is an outrageous accusation which Senator Carr knows is wrong and yet chooses to make to muddy the waters as part of what was supposed to be a defence of Senator Dastyari.

He then talked about the trade union royal commission. How that was a defence of Senator Dastyari I don't know, because the royal commission into trade unions showed the length and breadth and depth of corruption within the union movement and within the Australian Labor Party. He then spoke about Senator Conroy and accused the Australian Federal Police of being part of a political campaign to raid his office. He didn't mention, I might say, that that raid—and I know a bit about this because I'm on the Privileges Committee and I've got to be careful what I say, but I think what I'm saying is public knowledge—wasn't on Senator Conroy and had nothing to do with politics. It was a raid by the Australian Federal Police seeking to find evidence of a criminal act not by Senator Conroy but by one of Senator Conroy's staff. A criminal act: that's why the AFP were there—not as part of a political campaign, as alleged by Senator Carr, but investigating a criminal act. Senator Carr, in his defence of Senator Dastyari this morning—and this is so curious—then went on to attack the banking royal commission. I thought the Labor Party were in favour of it, but Senator Carr used his defence, so-called, of Senator Dastyari to attack the banking royal commission. What that has to do with Senator Dastyari I fail to see.

Fairfax Media today said that there were a number of references to security agencies. Senator Carr, in his defence of Senator Dastyari, said that, first of all, he has the highest regard for ASIO and the intelligence agencies and their leaders, and he mentioned them by name. He said he has the highest regard for them; then he went on to accuse them of being part of a political campaign. He then did, in fact, return to the subject and said there was no breach of security. But, as Senator Bernardi quite rightly pointed out, if the allegation in the Fairfax papers is true, Senator Dastyari did say to this person he was with, 'You might be under surveillance, so what I advise you to do to avoid that surveillance is leave your phone inside and let's walk outside and have a conversation.' Senator Carr says that's no breach of security. Is that what Senator Dastyari, a senior member of this parliament, would tell anyone about how to avoid what he thinks might be surveillance by the intelligence agencies?

Senator Carr completed his defence of Senator Dastyari by calling the allegations against Senator Dastyari 'petty little games'. That's Senator Carr's description of this. 'Hey, mate, you're under surveillance by the Australian intelligence agencies'—no doubt for good cause, if this is true—'so I'll tell you how to avoid the surveillance: leave your phone here; let's go outside under the trees, way away from everyone. Then we can have a conversation that you know won't be heard by anyone else.' What was that conversation about? Why did it have to be in a place where, according to Senator Dastyari in his great knowledge of security matters, no-one could hear? What was being said that was so secret that it had to be done outside?

I had hoped that today, when Senator Dastyari was given the opportunity, he might have said, 'Well, perhaps I shouldn't have told him to leave his phone there. The conversation wasn't terribly important. It was about XYZ.' But he didn't take that opportunity. One can only surmise what that conversation might have been about. We know, from Senator Dastyari's own admissions, that he had personally accepted money from a Chinese businessman, not for the ALP—although he does that too, and I will get to that—but for his own personal bills; they were paid for by a Chinese benefactor. It doesn't matter whether he is Chinese, but he is a benefactor paying the personal bills of a well-paid parliamentarian.

We know that Senator Dastyari was the general secretary of the Labor Party at the time of the Craig Emerson scandal. We know how the Labor Party, which Senator Dastyari was general secretary of, stood by Craig Emerson for days and weeks and months, even years, defending him—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator O'Sullivan ): Senator Farrell, on a point of order.

Senator Farrell: I think Senator Macdonald is badly misrepresenting Craig Emerson. I think he's talking about somebody else and I think he ought to withdraw any reference to former member Emerson.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald, if there is a correction to be made, you should make that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: It wasn't an accusation. I thank the senator for pointing out my error. I certainly didn't mean Craig Emerson. I meant Craig Thomson. Anyone listening would know who I was referring to—the New South Wales member, who I think is now serving time in jail, who lied to the Australian people and to this parliament and said that he was guilty of no misdoings. The Labor Party, which Senator Dastyari was then running, funded him. We know that the Labor Party in New South Wales were broke at the time, but they were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal costs to defend Craig Thomson. There were media reports at the time: 'Where is this money for Craig Thomson's defence coming from?' There were suggestions at the time that it was from Chinese interests. I don't make those allegations, but there were newspaper reports suggesting that.

We heard Senator Carr's defence of Senator Dastyari—nothing about Senator Dastyari, everything about everything else. Senator Wong's defence was equally obtuse and irrelevant. She spoke about the South China Sea policy of the Australian Labor Party. She spoke about a banking royal commission. In a long debate, she spoke in defence of Senator Dastyari—not about what he might or might not have done but about the definition of a senior parliamentarian in the leadership group of the Labor Party. That was her defence of Senator Dastyari—not to mention the accusations made by the Fairfax press but to have this obtuse, arcane debate on what a senior member of the Labor Party frontbench might look at.

I often think of my old mate Graham Richardson's book, Whatever it Takes. I was in the chamber when Graham Richardson was here, but he left rather suddenly. There was talk about Offset Alpine—I don't know what that was all about. Graham Richardson was the general secretary of the New South Wales Labor Party. So was a guy named Senator Arbib. Remember him? He was here for six or nine months, was appointed a minister, then suddenly left. He was the general secretary of the Labor Party in New South Wales. Then we have Senator Dastyari, who, straight from being the general secretary of the Labor Party, came here. I must reread Graham Richardson's book Whatever it Takes. The title of the book tells you all you need to know about the culture of the Labor Party in Sussex Street: whatever it takes to be in power is okay. Former Senator Richardson's words always ring in my ears when I hear of some of the works of people like Senator Dastyari. My namesake, Ian Macdonald, a former Labor Party member of the New South Wales parliament, was accused and convicted of criminal wrongdoing during the time that Senator Dastyari was in charge of the Labor Party in New South Wales. We've all heard of Eddie Obeid, also a Labor Party politician in New South Wales, who is currently serving time for dishonesty and corrupt practices in New South Wales. All of this was during the time that Senator Dastyari was in charge of the New South Wales Labor Party.

Senator Dastyari had a great opportunity to tell us his side of the story, but he didn't. Senator Wong had the opportunity of defending him, but she didn't. Senator Carr had the opportunity of defending him, but he didn't. Senator Dastyari used the coward's defence of bringing his children into it and trying to garner some sympathy, but everybody knows that Senator Dastyari puts on social media videos with him and his children talking about political matters like banking royal commissions. And he comes in here with crocodile tears about involving his children in political matters when he does it himself. I think this shows the depth of despair within the Labor Party.

Senator Brandis made an excellent point. There are seven or eight senators who have been forced to leave this parliament through no fault of their own, no misdoing whatsoever. Yet, here we have a senator who, by all accounts, has done something heinous as far as Australian society is concerned, and he won't resign.

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