As the dual citizenship debate rages in Federal Parliament, the issue of foreign donations is again in the spotlight with embattled Labor senator Sam Dastyari again forced to defend his handling of political donations he received last year.
In a heated discussion on Monday night’s Q&A, Senator Dastyari was the target of a scathing attack from Tasmanian Liberal senator Eric Abetz on the threat to Australia’s sovereignty from overseas donations.
Senator Dastyari stood down from the Labor frontbench last September after receiving $5000 from a Chinese-linked company to pay a legal bill.
“I’ve been on the record for some time that overseas donations should be banned. I believe that they should only be from domestic sources within Australia,” Senator Abetz said.
“But Sam, how you could accept money in a public position for private accounts just defies any standard whatsoever. I’m just astounded that you did it.
“How would your donors know that you’ve got a personal debt other than by waving it in front of them and saying, ‘Something has to be paid’?”
Watch part of the segment below:
Senator Dastyari conceded his mistake.
“I’m not pretending to be, I’m not sitting here as a purist. I’m sitting here as a realist. What I went through last year – and let’s go through this very quickly – I had a travel over-expense,” he said.
“That I got a donor to pay. I declared that on my register. I should have paid that myself. And over that and this whole kind of perception matter, I resigned from the Labor Party frontbench.”
Q&A host Tony Jones followed up by asking Senator Dastyari why he did it.
“Frankly to be honest I spent time asking that question,” he responded.
“I didn’t think enough about it or the perception of it. I treated it like I would have treated a campaign pool which was proper and wrong.
“Any politician whoever tells you they’re going to always get it right, they’re not going to make mistakes, they’re perfect, is lying. But the question is, what do you learn from it and what changes from it?
“What I’ve learnt from it and I’ve grown to this view and is as a result of my own experiences with donation reform.”
Senator Dastyari said he believes Australia should ban overseas donations altogether.
“I believe the donation culture in this country has gotten out of control,” he said.
“I think we should be banning donations certainly from foreign individuals and in recent times I’ve said that I think we should go further than that and in so far as is constitutionally possible to do so we should ban all donations.”
‘SSM debate is going to get very, very ugly’
Senator Dastyari also warned that the debate surrounding same-sex marriage is going to get “very, very ugly”, as the marriage equality survey nears.
Responding to a question from a homosexual couple and their concerns that relationships will be disparaged publicly in the coming months from the postal vote, Senator Dastyari said the sad reality is it is going to get “horrible”.
“I wish I could tell you it’s not going to get ugly. I think it’s going to get very, very ugly. It’s going to get horrible,” he said.
“Let’s be clear what this debate is about and isn’t about. It’s about whether two people who love each other, regardless of their gender, should be able to be married or not. What it’s not about is a debated about children.”