Dastyari claims he acted in the 'national interest'

EMBATTLED Labor Senator Sam Dastyari has fronted the media and claims he always acted in the national interest - despite reports he had a donor with links to the Chinese Government pay a $1600 debt and then adopted a pro-China stance on the South China Sea dispute. 

Dastyari reportedly sent a bill incurred when exceeded his government paid travel entitlements to the Top Education Institute - a company that has strong links to the Chinese Government.

In another instance in March 2015, Fairfax Media revealed the China-based Yuhu Group paid $5000 worth of legal fees for Senator Dastyari when he was the general secretary of the NSW branch of the Labor Party. 

And News Corp reported on Sunday two bottles of wine Dastyari received in 2013 were in fact $700 a pop Penfolds Grange Hermitage - again gifted to him by the Chinese Yuhu Group.

Then on June 16 this year Dastyari is reported as saying: "The South China Sea is China's own affair, Australia should remain neutral and respect China on this matter".

The statement places Dastyari out of step with Australia's foreign policy and the official line of the ALP of which Dastyari is a member. 

However this afternoon Dastyari said he could not: " "be held directly to words that were held at a press conference that I don't have a transcription of in front of me".

In a heated exchange with the media the embattled Senator denied holding a view contrary to the Labor Party line on the South China Sea and said he had always acted with the Nation's best interests in mind.

An excerpt from the transcript of the press conference is below.

JOURNALIST: Why else did you hold the press conference and make those commences? What other motivation did you have to make those comments?

You were paying back the donors, weren't you?

 JOURNALIST 2: Did you misspeak?   You just tripped over the words, did you?  

DASTYARI: it wasn't a lapse of words.I can't be any clearer. I support the Labor Party policy and the Labor Party position on the issue of the South China Sea.

JOURNALIST: Were you not thinking straight? You tripped over the words and there you are, it's just what the donors wanted.  

JOURNALIST 2: It's cash for comment, isn't it, Sam?  

DASTYARI: I'll get to you in a second, Andrew. I made a mistake.

I asked a private company to fix - to settle a $1,670 office overspend that I should have paid for myself.

I accept that and I take responsibility for that. I completely reject, though, I completely reject an assertion or implication that in any way, shape or form, any of my comments or decisions have been influenced by anything other than the national interest.

No. Let's be clear. No-one has ever asked for anything in return or nor would have I done anything in return.   While all these matters have been clearly outlined on my register, which is an open book which I'm sure everyone has been through and asked me questions about, there is a higher test which is does it pass community standards and the interests quite clearly of this $1,670 payment I should have made that payment myself.   I regret that, I'm sorry and Bill Shorten has counselled me very, very strongly about this.

Look, that has been canvassed quite openly in the media in the past. As I understand there was a confidentiality between the company, but I think those amounts that have been canvassed in the media are, as I understand, are pretty close to the mark.

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