Chinese technology giant Huawei remains hopeful of an overturn of the ban on its tendering for work on Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN), despite comments from Attorney-General George Brandis indicating that the ban would remain in place.
In March 2012, it was revealed that the former Labor government banned Huawei from tendering for any contracts with NBN Co, acting on the advice of security agencies over concerns about the company's links to the Chinese government.
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has given indications over the last year that the Coalition would reassess the ban, with a view to potentially open up the tenders to the company, but Brandis told The Australian Financial Review today that the government has not yet decided whether to lift the ban.
"The decision of the previous government not to permit Huawei to tender for the NBN was made on advice from the national security agencies," Brandis said.
"Since the election, the new government has had further briefings from the national security agencies. No decision has been made by the new government to change the existing policy."
Reports that the Coalition had decided to keep the ban appear to have been made in haste, according to Huawei. A company spokesperson told ZDNet that the decision would be part of the NBN 60-day strategic review.
"Huawei understands no decisions have been made by the government regarding the NBN, pending outcomes of the strategic review," the spokesperson said.
The Attorney-General's Department had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.
Brandis has already indicated that the area of national security will be a high priority for his portfolio, despite going to the election without any specific policies regarding national security issues such as data retention.
In the peak of the horrific bushfire incidents engulfing New South Wales two weeks ago, Brandis quietly issued a press release announcing that the former director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Paul O'Sullivan, would become Brandis' chief of staff in November.
"The appointment will underline the strong national security focus, which I intend to bring to the attorney-general's portfolio," Brandis said at the time.
It comes as Huawei's greatest rival in the NBN arena, Alcatel-Lucent, is making a strong play for much more work on the NBN, should the focus of the rollout shift from fibre to the premises to fibre to the node (FttN). The company has been working with Telstra to trial FttN technology, and recently showcased the technology at the Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam.