The Australian Government's decision to ban Huawei from tendering for the National Broadband Network (NBN) has sent ripples across the Tasman, with the New Zealand Labour Party calling on its government to explain Huawei's involvement with New Zealand's ultra-fast broadband roll-out.
The government banned Chinese-owned network vendor Huawei from competing for contracts with the NBN because of security fears. Huawei has long been under scrutiny because of alleged links with the People's Liberation Army. The office of the attorney-general said that it had the responsibility to protect the integrity of the network and the information carried on it, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the decision was "prudent".
Huawei has picked up a number of contracts for rolling out fibre across New Zealand as part of the government's NZ$1.5 billion ultra-fast broadband project. The open-access fibre network will cover 75 per cent of the country and will be able to offer Kiwis download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of 50Mbps. As with Australia's NBN, the roll-out is expected to take 10 years.
Although the contracts were awarded with not much controversy in 2011, in light of the ban in Australia, Labour Party ICT spokesperson Clare Curran has said it raises questions about the security and integrity of New Zealand's own network.
"The government is refusing to explain why it has taken a different decision to the Australian Government when it comes to security matters relating to Huawei's involvement in broadband projects," Curran said in a statement.
"While the Australian Government has banned Huawei from tendering for any contracts attached to its $36 billion broadband scheme, our Prime Minister blithely says he is 'comfortable with checks done' over the security of the New Zealand network."
Curran said the government was refusing to say whether New Zealand Prime Minister John Key had been briefed by the Australian Government for the reasons behind the ban, and would not offer any guarantees about the security of the New Zealand broadband network.
"Essentially, our government is looking the other way and refusing to take a second look at the contracts that have been given to Huawei despite the intense public interest in this matter."
The country's Greens Party has also asked the NZ parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee to investigate Huawei, according to Yahoo News New Zealand.
New Zealand ICT Minister Amy Adams told ZDNet Australia earlier this week that the government doesn't comment on specific vendors.
"Network security is an issue we take seriously. The government will work with all suppliers and operators to address any security concerns that may be identified, and is committed to working with operators and suppliers to protect the integrity and confidentiality of the [Ultra-fast Broadband] and [Rural Broadband Initiative] networks."
The news comes as newly inducted Foreign Minister Bob Carr has urged Huawei to continue expanding in Australia despite the ban.
"I would urge the company to continue to expand in Australia not withstanding this decision," Carr told the ABC.
"It's not unusual for countries, and China cannot be exempt from these considerations, to take national security concerns into account when it looks at certain types of foreign investment."
Yesterday it was also revealed that security firm Symantec had ended its US joint venture with Huawei because it reportedly feared its affiliation with the Chinese telecommunications company would prevent it from obtaining classified information from the US Government about cyberthreats.
AAP contributed to this article