Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Dastyari was crushed by the machine

This is the abridged version of the ugly, slow-motion train-wreck that ended up being the downfall of a promising young Australian politician. It began in September when the 34-year-old senator stepped down from the Australian Labor Party’s shadow ministry after accusations he had received a payment of $1670.82 from Top Education Institute principal Minshen Zhu. It also emerged that he had contradicted party policy on the South China Sea. In an ABC story:
The senator has conceded that he did the wrong thing, but the [conservative] Coalition [Government] has suggested he allowed the payments to influence his comments on China, and has demanded he step down. 
[Federal ALP leader Bill] Shorten today dismissed the insinuations, saying that he had "explained to Senator Dastyari our policy on the South China Sea and he has expressed his unreserved support for our policy". 
He told reporters in Melbourne that Senator Dastyari had been severely counselled after his "imprudent decision".
From a 5 April story on
THE controversy in the South China Sea is heating up, with a new report from the US warning China has almost completed construction of three mysterious man-made islands. 
The strategic bases will give China the ability to deploy combat aircraft and other military assets with terrifying efficiency across the disputed region.
But what is it with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)? From 2014:
China, in 2009, submitted to the UN its “nine-dash line” claim that covers the entire South China Sea, including parts of the Philippines’ western seaboard from the provinces of Ilocos Norte up to Palawan. 
China’s claim, however, has been repeatedly called invalid and not in accordance with UNCLOS, which the Philippines ratified in 1986 and China in 1996.
From an October 2015 paper by the PLA’s Colonel Xiaoqin Shi, then in the Defence and Strategic Studies Course at the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies at the Australian Defence College in Canberra:
China’s sovereignty in the South China Sea is not a subject that UNCLOS should be adjudicating because China’s claim is based on historic rights which are defined under a regime independent of UNCLOS.
So China doesn’t want to play any more by rules that fostered its growth and prosperity.

Later in 2017, following his first official dressing-down, Senator Dastyari’s public profile was reformed after he became manager of Opposition business in the Australian Senate and ALP spokesman for consumer affairs.

Then, in late November it emerged that Dastyari had again contradicted ALP policy by saying at a public event that Australia should stay out of the South China Sea. In an ABC story on 29 November:
A newly released recording of Labor senator Sam Dastyari addressing a gathering of Chinese media in Sydney has revealed he offered a detailed defence of China's policy in the South China Sea, in defiance of official ALP policy.
On the same day it was reported that Dastyari had warned wealthy Chinese businessman and political donor Huang Xiangmo that his phone was bugged. As reported by the SMH, Dastyari had visited Huang at his Mosman home and told him to leave his phone inside and to talk outside without it. Again, Shorten stepped in and disciplined Dastyari, and he was relieved of his frontbench duties.

Lastly, it emerged on 11 December that Dastyari had told ALP MP Tanya Plibersek not to meet a Hong Kong democracy activist. Yesterday, to crown it all, Dastyari appeared on national TV saying he would not rejoin the Senate in the new year.

Meanwhile, on 4 December, the Liberal party announced new foreign influence policies, in legislation slated for debate in Parliament. From an ABC story:
Foreign political donations [would] be banned and those trying to influence Australian politics on behalf of other nations [would] be forced to declare who they are working for, under new laws. 
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced the [planned] legislation amid growing concerns within the intelligence community about the influence of Chinese Government agents and political donations.
The move stems ultimately from a major joint ABC-Sydney Morning Herald investigation in September into Chinese Communist Party influence in Australian politics, and follows the 19th National Congress of the CPC. From Wikipedia:
The The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China was held at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, between 18 and 24 October 2017. 2,280 delegates represented the party's estimated 89 million members. Preparations for the 19th National Congress began in 2016 and ended with a plenary session of the Central Committee a few days prior to the Congress. In 2016, local and provincial party organizations began electing delegates to the congress as well as receiving and amending party documents. 
During the congress, a new guiding ideology, labelled Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, was written into the party's constitution. It marked the first time since Mao Zedong Thought that a living party leader has enshrined into the party constitution an ideology named after himself. The Congress also emphasized strengthening socialism with Chinese characteristics, party-building, and socialist rule of law, and setting concrete timelines for achieving development goals, such as building a moderately prosperous society and achieving "socialist modernization." It was also noted for rallying China to play a more substantial role internationally.
So at its latest party congress China decided – against both the wishes of the entire international community and the wishes of its own people – that it will double-down on centralised party control and eschew democracy at all costs. The kleptocracy – which is a real word that means rule by thieves – is secure in its control of the country and wants to continue to enjoy the material benefits of the dominant world political settlement, based on democracy led by the United States of America. They are benefiting from global finance and trade systems and want to deny the Chinese people the right to choose their own leaders.

And the Chinese leadership is in the ascendancy, according to Australian researcher Hugh White, whose new Quarterly Essay, ‘Without America’, says that China has already won the battle for influence between the two countries in Asia.

In such an environment, it was always going to happen that Dastyari would get trashed. His close ties with the Chinese community in Australia meant he was intimately associated with an unreliable and notoriously secretive political player that closely guards its policy formation machinery and is in conflict with Australia’s major traditional ally. This was in the end a poison that touched everything he involved himself in. I personally liked him but in the end I had to say, “Bon voyage.” Dastyari danced with Death.

Above: The pundits hit the tubes immediately after Sam Dastyari's press conference, which happened yesterday at 10.30am.

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