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Controversial Labor Senator Sam Dastyari Set To Return Only Three Months After China Scandal

Guess who's back?

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Sam Dastyari is set to return to the Labor Senate team this week as deputy opposition whip only three months after resigning over a Chinese political donations scandal.

Dean Lewins / AAPIMAGE

The New South Wales senator told BuzzFeed News he'll be putting his name forward for the position made vacant by Catryna Bilyk, who is expected to formally resign as deputy opposition whip in the next week.

"I'll be sticking my hand up for the position. It's a matter for caucus who will get it," Dastyari said.

"Unlike the deputy whip in the House of Representatives, George Christensen, I'm promising to my colleagues that if I get the position I won't be posing for any photos with a whip. That's my campaign theme," he joked.

It's highly unlikely anyone will challenge Dastyari for the role, which will be filled at the next caucus meeting. There's no date set for the meeting; it could be as late as February.

Bilyk, a member of the Tasmanian right faction, has denied reports she was asked to resign to make way for Dastyari, a factional leader in the NSW right. The cancer survivor told the Australian Financial Review she's resigning to focus on a new inquiry into funding for research into cancers with low survival rates.

Working under chief opposition whip Anne Urquhart, the deputy whip's job is to manage Senate business, arrange pairs, maintain party discipline and get MPs to turn up to votes.

Dean Lewins / AAPIMAGE

Dastyari resigned as shadow minister for consumer affairs and manager of opposition businesses in the Senate after reports emerged that he got a company with links to the Chinese government to pay a personal $1,670 office bill last year, then reportedly spoke out in favour of China’s position on the South China Sea, against Labor's official policy position.

It was later revealed he received a $40,000 donation from another company with links to China to pay a legal bill in 2013.

Dastyari said in September that the donations scandal was a "mistake" that occurred because he "did not stop and think". He admitted there also was a possibility he "misspoke" about the South China Sea.

"I do accept that I should have made that payment myself… I made a mistake and I am sorry," he said.

"In hindsight, I should have paid myself."

The scandal earned him the nicknames "Shanghai Sam" and "sky-rocket Sam" from his colleagues.

Labor leader Bill Shorten stood by Dastyari during the scandal calling him a "bright young" talent and "rising star" in the party.

Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

Contact Alice Workman at

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