Dastyari hounded Defence over China
EMBATTLED Labor Senator Sam Dastyari hounded senior Defence officials over three years with at least 115 questions representing China’s concerns about issues such as the South China Sea and Australia’s friendship with Japan.
Senator Dastyari’s repeated grilling of then secretary of the Department of Defence Dennis Richardson and former DFAT secretary Peter Varghese contradicts his claims he simply misspoke when supporting a proChina line on the South China Sea issue in a press conference alongside donor Huang Xiangmo.
Instead, it was a position the Senator had articulated over and over, causing consternation in parliamentary estimates committee hearings.
An analysis of estimate committee transcripts shows Senator Dastyari has framed 115 questions representing China’s concerns to senior foreign affairs and defence bureaucrats since his appointment to the Senate in August 2013.
In February 2014 he grilled Mr Varghese on what he claimed was Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s preferential treatment of Japan over China.
“If there is a formal and public rebuke to China over the Air Defence Identification Zone, why wasn’t there a similar process undertaken with Japan over (PM Shinzo) Abe’s Yasukuni Shrine visit if both of them are contributing to tension in the region?” he asked.
He also asked why Australia had described Japan as an “ally” and “best friend in Asia” and whether this had “had any negative ramifications”.
In another series of questions, Senator Dastyari claimed the Australian Government was risking the relationship with China.
“How are you able to categorise the current foreign policy relationship between Australia and China as strong, when the series of events as outlined has put that relationship at risk?” he said.
On July 2, 2014, he queried Mr Richardson about Australia taking sides in China’s territorial disputes, suggesting Australia’s participation in a “longrunning dispute regarding territorial waters is itself the act of taking a side”.
In July 2015, he was still interested in why Australia would get involved in China’s territorial disputes, and three months later he questioned Mr Varghese on what the Government was planning to do with regard to freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea. – Sharri Markson
The Daily Telegraph
CHINA ON HIS MIND: Senator Sam Dastyari.