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Labor Rising Star Savaged Over Donation From Chinese Company

"I made a mistake and I am sorry."

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Labor senator Sam Dastyari has apologised and admitted he made a "mistake" after he was caught out getting a Chinese company to pay his personal bills.

Dean Lewins / AAPIMAGE

Dastyari provided the mea culpa at a press conference in Sydney on Tuesday after admitting to asking a company with links to the Chinese government to pay a $1,670 bill from the Department of Finance last year.

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

Following the Chinese donation, Dastyari reportedly changed his stance on the controversial issue of the South China Sea, apparently telling a press conference for the Chinese community in Sydney, "the South China Sea is China's own affair, Australia should remain neutral and respect China on this matter".

But under intense questioning, Dastyari would not confirm what was said at the press conference about the South China Sea, suggesting there was a possibility he "misspoke" about the issue.

[record scratch] [freeze frame] yup thats me, you're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation.

"If I have misspoken on this issue in the past, in this instance, then I would have been wrong," said the senator.

It's not the first time Labor's rising star has received donations with links to China – he got $40,000 from a company to pay off a legal bill in 2013.

The federal government has been calling on Dastyari to be sacked over the scandal, with attorney general George Brandis claiming it's a "test" for opposition leader Bill Shorten.

We've entered "embattled" on the strife scale

Dastyari rejected the calls for his resignation and said he'd been counselled by Shorten over the matter.

Shorten is standing by Labor's consumer affairs spokesman, who is also a powerful NSW Labor numbers man, calling him a "junior senator" who made an "imprudent decision".

Once more for the record, this one translates as: "This isn't as bad as it looks"

Dastyari said the "mistake" occurred because he "did not stop and think".

"In hindsight, I should have paid myself," he said.

Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at mark.distefano@buzzfeed.com.

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