By David Bates

Two rather distressing things happened in the last fortnight.

Firstly, after admitting he asked a Chinese donor to pay one of his travel bills because he ‘…didn’t want to pay it … ’ beleaguered Senator Sam Dastyari (nicknamed Dim Sam by some – I love that moniker!) finally resigned.

Secondly, and perhaps far more disturbingly, leading commentators such as Graham Richardson continued to refer to the Senator as ‘a rising star’, or ‘hugely talented’ or as having ‘a very bright future’. Really? Are we all talking about the same man?

The Senator I’m talking about is the hapless and hopelessly out-of-his-depth 33 year old ‘junior Senator’ (to borrow Bill Shorten’s term) who attended not one, but two car-crash-esque press conferences and ultimately resigned because he rather incredibly asked a Chinese donor to pay his travel bill because he just wasn’t in the mood to pay it himself.

Rising star? Hugely talented? C’mon! If Senator Sam Dastyari genuinely represents the best of Labor’s next generation of politicians, then that should tell us all we need to know about the dearth of talent in today’s ALP.

Now you may be wondering why my column on employment law is focussed this week on the demise of Senator Dastyari. Well, none of us should ever forget the Senator’s past: he was the ‘faceless man’ in the NSW Labor right who helped the disgraced and now-convicted former MP, Craig Thomson, stay in Parliament.

Mr Thomson, the former head of the Health Services Union - which represents some of Australia’s hardest-working, but lowest paid employees - spent huge amounts of union members’ money on prostitutes and his own election campaign. When the allegations surfaced once he’d become the federal MP for Dobell in Julia Gillard’s government, Sam Dastyari helped prevent Mr Thomson becoming bankrupt by paying his legal bills.

This wasn’t a selfless gesture. Had Craig Thomson become bankrupt, he would have been forced out of Parliament and the Gillard Government would have inevitably toppled.

You see, nothing matters more to the NSW Labor Right – the spiritual home of Sam Dastyari and countless other generally unelectable and talentless ‘number crunchers’ – than power. Power at all costs.

It didn’t matter that thousands of unions members were being let down by the disgraceful antics of union officials like Craig Thomson, Kathy Jackson or Michael Williamson. It didn’t matter that Craig Thomson’s behaviour was beyond reprehensible. All that mattered to Sam Dastyari was power.

The Labor Party and unions appear to me to have stopped caring about Australian workers years ago when they began setting up lucrative super funds and doing sweetheart Enterprise Agreement deals with the likes of Coles and Woolworths. And Senator Sam ‘I don’t like paying my own bills’ Dastyari underlined his contempt for workers when he helped keep Craig Thomson stay in Parliament.

If you’re still a member of a union after all this, you really do need to ask yourself why.