Sam Dastyari

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Sam Dastyari
Senator Sam Dastyari March 2014.jpg
Dastyari at the Sydney Mardi Gras in 2014
Senator for New South Wales
In office
21 August 2013 – 25 January 2018
Preceded by Matt Thistlethwaite
Succeeded by Kristina Keneally
General Secretary of the Labor Party
in New South Wales
In office
17 July 2010 – 21 August 2013
Leader Kristina Keneally
John Robertson
Preceded by Matt Thistlethwaite
Succeeded by Jamie Clements
Deputy Opposition Whip in the Senate
In office
3 February 2017 – 30 November 2017
Leader Penny Wong
Chief Whip Anne Urquhart
Preceded by Jenny McAllister
Manager of Opposition Business
in the Senate
In office
23 July 2016 – 7 September 2016
Deputy Katy Gallagher
Leader Penny Wong
Preceded by Claire Moore
Succeeded by Katy Gallagher
Personal details
Born Sahand Dastyari
(1983-07-28) 28 July 1983 (age 35)
Sari, Mazandaran Province, Iran
Nationality Australian
Political party Labor Party
Helen Barron
(m. 2010)
Children 2
Residence Russell Lea, New South Wales, Australia
Education Baulkham Hills High School
Alma mater University of Sydney
Macquarie University
Profession Lobbyist

Sam Dastyari (born Sahand Dastyari, Persian: سهند دستیاری‎; born 28 July 1983) is an Australian former politician, who from 2013 to 2018 represented New South Wales in the Australian Senate as a member of the Australian Labor Party. Dastyari was previously General Secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party.[5] He was the first person of Iranian origin to sit in the Australian Parliament.[6] As a Senator, Dastyari was the subject of a Chinese-related donations scandal, which eventually led to his resignation from the Senate on 25 January 2018.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Sari, Mazandaran Province, Iran[3] to an ethnic Azeri mother and Persian Father, Dastyari arrived in Australia at age four in January 1988.[8] His parents were student activists in the 1979 Iranian revolution.[2]

Dastyari attended John Purchase Public School in Cherrybrook, joined the Australian Labor Party at age sixteen [9] and was vice-captain at Baulkham Hills High School.[10] Dastyari dropped out of a Bachelor of Economics / Bachelor of Laws course at the University of Sydney [4] due to being "so caught up in the movement and student politics".[4] He went on to become President of Australian Young Labor[3] and later studied part-time at Macquarie University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in politics.[4]

Political career, 2010–2018[edit]

Early career (2010–2013)[edit]

In March 2010, Dastyari was elected as General Secretary of NSW Labor with the support of the Transport Workers' Union (TWU), the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), and the Australian Workers Union (AWU).[2]

Australian Senate (2013–2018)[edit]

On 21 August 2013, a joint sitting of the Parliament of New South Wales appointed Dastyari to the Senate seat vacated by Matt Thistlethwaite, who had resigned to contest a House of Representatives seat at the 2013 federal election.[11]

Dastyari was an Iranian citizen at birth. He previously applied to renounce Iranian citizenship in order to take the "reasonable steps" required to comply with section 44 of the Constitution of Australia. Dastyari did not complete the compulsory military service required to renounce citizenship under Iranian law, but stated that the Iranian government's issuance of a tourist visa to him acknowledged that he was no longer an Iranian citizen.[12][13]

In October 2015, the retirements of Bernie Ripoll and Jan McLucas from the shadow ministry caused a reshuffle, and Dastyari became Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition, and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Youth.

After Labor's defeat at the 2016 election, Dastyari was promoted to the shadow outer ministry becoming Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate, and spokesman for consumer affairs. Dastyari resigned from the positions following a scandal over payments and gifts from Chinese companies.[14][15] He was later appointed Deputy Opposition Whip in the Senate. Dastyari formally submitted his resignation from the Senate on 25 January 2018.[7]

Chinese influence scandal[edit]

In September 2016, Dastyari resigned as Manager of Opposition Business and Consumer Affairs Spokesman after reports emerged that he had asked a donor with links to the Chinese Communist Party to pay a travel bill.[16] It was revealed that Dastyari had asked a Chinese company, Top Education Institute, run by a businessman with links to the Chinese government, to cover a travel expense (more than $1600). Yuhu, another Chinese company, paid an undisclosed settlement agreement for Dastyari when he was being sued for more than $40,000 plus costs.[16] It later emerged that the settlement figure was around $44,000 [17]

Dastyari spoke at a number of Chinese-language press conferences and was at odds with the Australian government's policy, as well as his own party's policy, on the South China Sea. Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister, accused him of accepting money in exchange for supporting China in its South China Sea territorial disputes.[18] The uproar over Dastyari's actions was seen by The Economist as a sign of the changing mood among Australians regarding Chinese investment.[19] Initially, Dastyari attempted to defuse the situation by offering the money he had received to a charity; however, the charity refused to accept the donation stating that it "did not wish to be compromised" by taking the payment. As a result of this controversy, on 7 September 2016 Dastyari resigned from his shadow frontbench position as Manager of Opposition Business and spokesman for consumer affairs, and returned to the backbench.[14]

In 2017, following reports that he contradicted Labor's policy on the South China Sea territorial dispute (supported the position of China) and offered counter-surveillance advice to the Chinese donor in question, property developer billionaire Huang Xiangmo, Dastyari was removed from his roles as Senate Deputy Opposition Whip and Senate Committee chair.[20] On 29 November 2017, audio recording was released of Dastyari speaking at a conference alongside Yuhu's Huang Xiangmo in June 2016. This clarified the extent to which Dastyari contradicted Labor policy on territorial disputes in the South China Sea, as he claimed that "[t]he Chinese integrity of its borders is a matter for China." Media reports also stated that Dastyari had told the donor, Huang Xiangmo, that his phones were likely being tapped by intelligence agencies and that they should leave their phones inside and speak outside to avoid being overheard.[21] Party leader Bill Shorten stripped Dastyari of his role as Deputy Opposition Whip the next day, amid calls from Prime Minister Turnbull and the Government for Dastyari to stand down from the Senate.[22] In December 2017, reports emerged that in 2015 he attempted to persuade Labor's foreign affairs spokesperson, Tanya Plibersek, to cancel a meeting with a member of Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp.[23]

On 12 December 2017, he announced he would be resigning from the Senate prior to the 2018 parliamentary year.[24] Dastyari's decision not to resign with effect immediately attracted some criticism, partly because it would allow him to continue earning a Senator's salary.[25] He formally submitted his resignation to the President of the Senate on 25 January 2018.[7]

Ross Babbage, former head of strategic analysis at the Office of National Assessments, described Dastyari as an "agent of influence" and part of China's aim to build local support for its policy positions around the world.[26] As a result of the scandal, Dastyari was the subject of petitions with thousands of signatures calling for him to be charged with treason.[26]

Political views[edit]

In 2012, at a dinner to promote multiculturalism and "bring Muslims and others together to learn and understand each other’s culture and religious significance", Dastyari said "Labor core values are similar to Islamic social value such as equal justice and respect for everyone".[27]

In 2016, Dastyari claimed that ten companies wield the most incredible amount of power in Australia to an extent that stifles proper democratic and economic progress.[28][29]

Radio career[edit]

In March 2018, Dastyari passed a two-show trial to join a KIIS 106.5 Sydney breakfast radio show once a fortnight on a segment known as Gutter Politics.[30]

Personal life[edit]

Dastyari identifies as a "non-practising Muslim".[31] He and wife Helen live in the Sydney suburb of Russell Lea with their two daughters.[1]

Dastyari is a member of the Halal Snack Pack Appreciation Society[32][33] although he has publicly stated that "some halal certifiers are nothing more than scammers.”[34] He made news by inviting One Nation's controversial leader Pauline Hanson to join him for a Halal Snack Pack, an invitation she declined.


  1. ^ a b Chancellor, Jonathan (23 November 2012). "NSW Labor machine man Sam Dastyari upgrades inner west family abode". Property Observer. Retrieved 20 July 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Barry, Paul (2 July 2012). "The Power Index: Sam Dastyari". Private Media Pty Ltd. Archived from the original on 12 May 2013. Retrieved 20 July 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Snow, Deborah (25 June 2011). "Force of youth". The Canberra Times. Retrieved 20 July 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d Summers, Anne (24 August 2013). "Master of the maze". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  5. ^ Deborah Snow (27 July 2013). "Cautious reformer eyes a leap into Senate". Sydney Morning Herald. 
  6. ^ "Faculty of Arts, Macquarie University". Master of the maze. Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c "Labor senator Sam Dastyari formally quits Parliament". Sydney Morning Herald. 25 January 2018. 
  8. ^ "Senator for New South Wales". Australian Labor Party. Retrieved 2017-11-12. 
  9. ^ Akerman, Piers (3 May 2014). "Labor shows that it has learned nothing". The Sunday Telegraph. 
  10. ^ Summers, Anne (18 August 2013). "Master of the maze". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 
  11. ^ "Labor's Dastyari gets nod for Senate". The Australian. 9 August 2013. Retrieved 12 November 2017. 
  12. ^ "Citizenship saga in Senate: Every foreign link revealed". ABC News. 4 December 2017. 
  13. ^ "Back to where I came from: Sam Dastyari". The Monthly. 1 August 2017. 
  14. ^ a b's-front-bench/7823970
  15. ^ Middleton, Karen (2016-09-10). "Political donations and Sam Dastyari's downfall". The Saturday Paper. Retrieved 2016-10-24. 
  16. ^ a b Murphy, Katharine (1 September 2016). "On political donations, Canberra is sleepwalking into its own integrity crisis". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 December 2017. 
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Australia’s growing fear of Chinese business is drenched in hypocrisy
  20. ^ Yaxley, Louise (30 November 2017). "Bill Shorten dumps Sam Dastyari from Senate job, says he doesn't trust senator after latest China revelations". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 1 December 2017. 
  21. ^ Yaxley, Louise (29 November 2017). "PM questions Dastyari's loyalty amid security information leak claims". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 1 December 2017. 
  22. ^ Yaxley, Louise (30 November 2017). "Bill Shorten dumps Sam Dastyari from Senate job, says he doesn't trust senator after latest China revelations". ABC News (Australia). Retrieved 30 November 2017. 
  23. ^ Hunter, Fergus; McKenzie, Nick (10 December 2017). "Sam Dastyari warned Tanya Plibersek to abandon meeting with Hong Kong activist, sources say". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 10 December 2017. 
  24. ^ Remeikis, Amy (12 December 2017). "Sam Dastyari quits as Labor senator over China connections". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 December 2017. 
  25. ^ Massola, James (13 December 2017). "Sam Dastyari to keep drawing taxpayer salary for weeks, despite resigning". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 December 2017. 
  26. ^ a b Patrick, Aaron (4 December 2017). "Sam Dastyari is a Chinese 'agent of influence': ex-intelligence chief". Financial Review. Retrieved 10 December 2017. 
  27. ^ "Solicitor Ejaz Khan hosted a Iftar dinner at the Himalaya Restaurant Sydney". Sada-e-Watan Sydney. August 2012. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  28. ^ "Ten companies have taken control of Australian politics, says Labor senator in fiery pub speech". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2016-02-05. 
  29. ^ Glasgow, Will (10 April 2015). "Is Sam Dastyari the most anti-business person in Australia?". Australian Financial Review. 
  30. ^ "'Gutter Politics': Sam Dastyari joins Kyle & Jackie O show". The New Daily. 20 March 2018. Retrieved 22 March 2018. 
  31. ^ Craine, Emily (19 July 2016). "Are you Muslim or not, Sam? Labor senator told Pauline Hanson he was a Muslim on Q&A. Now he says he's 'non-practising'... so how does he explain these photos of him swilling a cold Crown Lager?". Daily Mail Australia. Retrieved 31 July 2016. 
  32. ^ "Senator rates halal snack pack a 10". Sky News Australia. March 17, 2016. Retrieved April 30, 2016. 
  33. ^ Rawson, Sharnee (14 July 2016). "Senator Sam Dastyari's guide to halal snack packs". Good Food. Fairfax Media. 
  34. ^ Aston, Heath (2 December 2015). "'Nothing more than scammers': Senate committee calls for halal overhaul". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 August 2016. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of Australia
Political offices
Preceded by
Claire Moore
Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate
Succeeded by
Katy Gallagher
Party political offices
Preceded by
Matt Thistlethwaite
General Secretary of the Australian Labor Party (NSW Branch)
Succeeded by
Jamie Clements