Doorstop, Canberra

 

PRIME MINISTER:

Hello.

JOURNALIST:

What did you make of last night Prime Minister, and what did you say to your colleagues?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it was an embarrassing episode wasn’t it? The Labor Party pulled a stunt, an old one, but one that’s been pulled before and a number of my colleagues – without authority, without permission from the Whip – had left the House early, had left before the House adjourned.

They were caught out. So as you know, the Labor Party won several procedural motions. So it is a wake-up call for all of the Members of the House of Representatives to make sure that they comply with the rules and attend to their duties in the chamber and do not leave the House on a Friday before the House has actually adjourned.

JOURNALISTS:

Have you read them the Riot Act?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have read the Riot Act yes, to the Ministers and I can assure you that this will not happen again.

JOURNALIST:

Does this show that the Government doesn’t have a workable majority, obviously it didn’t work?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Government has a majority. It has a workable majority when all of the Members are in attendance as they should be, and they know they should be. They will be in attendance, you can be rest assured, in the future.

Now can I just say, I said this has been embarrassing. There has been quite a bit of political embarrassment going around today. But there is an embarrassment for the Labor Party and Mr Shorten that is much more grave than the issue of some procedural votes being lost and Members leaving the House early.

This is what Mr Shorten has to address - we know now that one of his frontbenchers, Senator Dastyari, took a sum of money from a company associated with the Chinese Government to pay off a personal debt of his. That’s what he did. He arranged for that company to pay his personal debt. It could have been his electricity bill, or his gas bill, or perhaps his tax bill. This was money for him. It wasn’t a donation to the Labor Party, it wasn’t a banquet, it was cash money paid for his personal benefit.

Now this is almost unprecedented. This is very, very unusual. But in addition to that, Senator Dastyari expressed views about the South China Sea which are directly at odds with those policies followed and articulated by the Australian Government and indeed by the Opposition. So there has been a strong stand by my Government, supported by the Opposition, supported by Mr Shorten, that the rule of law must prevail throughout the world and in the South China Sea the parties should resolve their differences in accordance with international law.

Mr Dastyari has said that China’s claims in the South China Sea should be supported. That is not the Australian Government’s policy. It is not the Opposition’s policy. Mr Shorten can squirm, and try and weasel-word around this as much as he likes. He can try to create diversions about votes in the House of Representatives last night or other issues. But this is the fact, he has to explain, he has to explain is the Labor Party’s foreign policy for sale? Was this cash for comment?

Bill Shorten and Sam Dastyari have to explain Sam Dastyari’s receipt of money from that company and the extraordinary remarks and statements he has made on foreign policy which are, I repeat, utterly at odds with the foreign policy of the Australian Government, supported by the Opposition.

Thank you very much.