The outrage by Malcolm Turnbull over the story that Senator Sam Dastyari supposedly told a Chinese national ‘benefactor’, Huang Xiangmo, that his phone was probably bugged, and that they should leave their phones inside and go outside to speak, was just manufactured outrage1. The perception that an Australian politician was capable of giving counterespionage advice to someone who is connected to the Chinese Communist Party and according to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) is a person of interest, is simply laughable. If Mr Huang is an agent, then he would know he is likely to be bugged. If he is not an agent, then being involved in politics and donating money to politicians, he surely would expect that his phone is likely to be bugged.
In addition to giving counterespionage advice, Dastyari is accused of stating that China’s actions in the South China Sea are its business entirely. This runs counter to the Labor Party’s policy on China’s actions in the region. This is old news from 14 months ago and was partly the reason Dastyari lost his position on the front bench2. The fact that this has been resuscitated reeks of it being kept as money in the bank by the government. Its release now, I suspect, is all about the by-elections in New England, where Barnaby Joyce has been running a ‘Where’s Wally’ election campaign, seemingly believing he cannot lose; and Bennelong, where the old white bloke John Alexander is running against a dynamic Labor candidate, Kristina Keneally, eighteen years his junior. If the Coalition lose these by-elections they may well be out of government, and when you believe you are born to rule, this is anathema. In addition, Newspoll is also currently under way, and Turnbull is rapidly heading toward the number of losing polls which supposedly caused him to pull the trigger to oust former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. No wonder the Coalition are terrified.