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Thursday, 30 November 2017
Page: 9316

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (11:29): As we move towards the latter stages of this debate on the motion to take note of Senator Dastyari's statement, I think it is important, having heard Senator Farrell, Senator Carr and Senator Wong seek to speak about anything but Senator Dastyari's behaviour, that this chamber comes back to Senator Dastyari's behaviour. Senator Farrell just gave a long list of the usual political argy-bargy that we hear in this building. But there is nothing usual about what Senator Dastyari is alleged to have done. There is nothing usual about Senator Dastyari's behaviour. In fact, it is quite extraordinary, nigh on unprecedented, for a senator in this place to stand accused of seeking to subvert the operations of Australian intelligence agencies, such that that senator can then conduct secret conversations with foreign nationals. That is what Senator Dastyari stands accused of doing, and he has not denied these allegations. These allegations were made by Fairfax Media yesterday that Senator Dastyari, in a secret meeting with a foreign national, said: 'I believe your phone may be being bugged. I believe this meeting place may be being bugged. You may be being tapped by Australian intelligence agencies. I suggest that you leave your phone here and that we step outside to another location to have this meeting.'

It is decades since an Australian parliamentarian has faced allegations of this type of severity in any way, shape or form like the ones that Senator Dastyari faces right now, and he has not denied those allegations. Mr Shorten has not denied those allegations. It is very clear that, if that is true, if that is what Senator Dastyari did, then simply resigning as the Deputy Opposition Whip is a woefully inadequate response by Senator Dastyari—and a woefully inadequate response by Mr Shorten in terms of upholding the standards of this parliament and upholding the standards of the Labor Party and the credibility of the party that seeks to be the alternative government of Australia.

How could we have any confidence in the Australian Labor Party to act in Australia's national interests, when senior, influential serving members of the Australian Labor Party's parliamentary caucus decide that they can undertake, on their own basis, activities that, frankly, they should not have, that were clearly a subversion, or an attempt to subvert the activities, it seems, of Australia's intelligence agencies?

The quick point that I just want to emphasise, which Senator Brandis made in his statements in a very compelling way, is that over the last few months we have seen former Senators Ludlam, Waters, Nash, Roberts, Parry and Kakoschke-Moore all leave this place because, technically, they were in breach of the Australian Constitution and the provisions of the Constitution that relate to whether or not you are under the influence of a foreign power. They upped and left. Nobody ever made any allegation against any one of those former senators that they were actually under the influence of any foreign power. But Senator Dastyari stands accused of conspiring with a foreign citizen, a foreign national, in a way where he sought to actively subvert the operations of Australian intelligence services. These are serious allegations.

I see there are now further allegations about what Mr Shorten knew and when, and whether Mr Shorten, indeed, through any back channels, may have passed information on to Senator Dastyari. Mr Shorten clearly has very serious questions himself to answer, but, first and foremost, he should show the standard that this parliament expects, which is that Senator Dastyari—like the senators who have done the right thing on a technicality and have left this chamber—stands accused of actually conspiring in such a way that he ought to leave the building.

Question agreed to.