Former Labor frontbencher Sam Dastyari praised the Chinese Communist Party’s official propaganda outlet for its “incredible work” in building relations with Australia.In a 2015 Chinese New Year message he recorded for People’s Daily Online Australia, Senator Dastyari said the state-run newspaper provided a “strong voice” for Chinese Australians.
Senator Dastyari was one of many MPs to record a Chinese New Year message for the People’s Daily, but appeared to be the only one to praise the newspaper directly.
“As we head into the new year, it’s an important time to acknowledge the incredible contribution that Australian Chinese are marking in business, in arts and throughout the community,” he said.
“It’s great to be able to share a message with the audience of the People’s Daily Online and the incredible work that that organisation does to actually build the relationship between Australia and China, and make sure there is a strong voice for Chinese Australians.”
The video was published on February 16, 2015 – the year after Senator Dastyari had a $5000 legal bill settled by Huang Xiangmo’s Yuhu Group, but before he outsourced his travel overspend to the the prominent Chinese donor Minshen Zhu and his Top Education Institute.
Senator Dastyari stood down from his frontbench positions last week following a week of furore about his acceptance of money, which had been declared on his pecuniary interests register.
It was also revealed last week that Senator Dastyari had taken a position sympathetic to China’s on the South China Sea while standing next to a donor who had previously paid his legal bills.
“Sam made a mistake and now he’s paying a heavy price,” Labor leader Bill Shorten said in a statement following the resignation
People’s Daily is the largest newspaper group in China and an official arm of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, and has, in recent years, aggressively pursued overseas expansion.
Last year the organ fell foul of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s anti-graft watchdog, which accused the newspaper of burying news stories in exchange for bribes, and of blackmail.
“Some domestic bureaux used the party’s resources to get profits by setting up co-operation deals,” the watchdog’s report said, according to the London-based Financial Times. “Some subsidiaries had instances of payment for news, payment not to publish and blackmail.”
A subsiduary of the People’s Daily, The Global Times, recently ran an editorial that warned: “If Australia steps into the South China Sea waters, it will be an ideal target for China to warn and strike.”
Senator Dastyari pointed out that many other MPs had also recorded videos for the People’s Daily to mark Chinese New Year. This year’s haul included messages from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, then Liberal MP Philip Ruddock, Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and another appearance by Senator Dastyari.
However, none of the other speakers seen by Fairfax Media praised the People’s Daily during their contributions. In 2015, then prime minister Tony Abbott recorded a message in which he spoke about how a China free-trade agreement would boost jobs and growth.