You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

I didn't want to pay bill, Dastyari says

AAP logoAAP 7/09/2016 Belinda Merhab and Rashida Yosufzai

Embattled Labor senator Sam Dastyari has admitted he asked a Chinese company to cover the personal debt which cost him his frontbench job simply because he didn't want to pay it.

"I had a bill, I did not want to pay the bill myself," he told the Nine Network outside his home in Sydney on Thursday.

The frank admission came as Prime Minister Malcolm Malcolm Turnbull attacked Opposition Leader Bill Shorten for not sacking the embattled senator over the Chinese donation controversy.

The saga was an indictment of Mr Shorten's failure in leadership and courage, he said.

"Bereft of a leader, he had to take the sword into his own hands and dispatch himself," the prime minister told reporters on Thursday in the Laotian capital Vientiane, where he is attending the ASEAN summit.

He questioned what "hold" Senator Dastyari had over Mr Shorten.

"Frozen, terrified by this 33-year-old junior senator... the leader of the opposition did not have the courage or the integrity to stand him down himself."

Senator Dastyari quit as manager of opposition business in the Senate and consumer affairs spokesman after sustained pressure for allowing a Chinese donor to foot the bill for a $1600 travel overspend and reportedly taking a pro-China stance on the South China Sea at odds with Labor's position.

Asked what was going on in his mind when he accepted the payment, the Labor senator admitted: "Frankly it's pretty obvious not a lot."

However, he's unlikely to languish in backbench purgatory forever.

Mr Shorten said it wasn't the end of Senator Dastyari's career and he'd return eventually.

"If you have any fear about seeing the last of Senator Dastyari you won't - he'll be around," he told reporters in Sydney.

Labor frontbencher Mark Dreyfus signalled precedents for a return.

"We've seen people come back before from resigning a frontbench position," he said.

"He has a prospect, while he remains in the Senate, of coming back."

Mr Dreyfus noted there was still doubt over what Senator Dastyari actually said on the South China Sea, despite the comments reported by Chinese media.

Cabinet minister Sussan Ley said his return to the Labor frontbench should be ruled out.

"I had to renounce my British citizenship when I became a member of parliament," she told ABC TV.

"It would never cross my mind that another country's agenda could influence me, even the country of my birth."

Meanwhile, Labor is vowing to continue its fight to get foreign government donations to political parties banned.

Mr Shorten has flagged introducing a bill to "clean up" the overdue issue of foreign donations.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon