Libs slam Huawei ban, Greens want explanation

Libs slam Huawei ban, Greens want explanation

Summary: The Greens have called for the Federal Government to explain the reasoning behind its decision to ban Chinese network giant Huawei from tendering for the National Broadband Network (NBN).


The Greens have called for the Federal Government to explain the reasoning behind its decision to ban Chinese network giant Huawei from tendering for the National Broadband Network (NBN).

The government banned Chinese-owned network vendor Huawei from competing for contracts with the National Broadband Network 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".

Greens Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam said that for such a critical piece of infrastructure as the NBN, the government was right to be cautious, but said it still needed to explain the case for the Huawei ban.

"Huawei has operated in Australia since 2004, but this is no ordinary tender; it is the most significant infrastructure project of our generation. It will be a crucial part of communications in Australia, with a vital role to play in commerce, education, the public health system and all levels of civil administration," Ludlam said in a statement.

"The government is prudent to do all it can to protect the integrity of the NBN. While it is unlikely ASIO would issue a security warning for trivial reasons under these circumstances, the government should explain the decision."

Ludlam said Huawei had not been accused of breaking any Australian laws, and the government's intervention in NBN Co's tendering processes raised questions that needed to be answered.

"If the government has evidence that there is a dangerously close relationship between Huawei and Beijing's political and military interests — it should make that information public."

While Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been quick to comment on other vendors' involvement in the NBN roll-out, such as the accusations of bribery going on while NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley headed up the US business of Alcatel-Lucent, Turnbull has yet to comment on the Huawei ban. ZDNet Australia contacted Turnbull's office this morning but has not yet heard a response.

Opposition finance spokesperson Andrew Robb, who last year toured Huawei's facilities in mainland China and Hong Kong on a trip sponsored by the company, said decisions such as this would reinforce the increasingly "dim view" overseas investors had of Australia.

"Over the last four years the Rudd-Gillard governments have damaged our relations with China, India, Japan and Indonesia at a time when the middle class across that region is exploding," Robb told AAP.

"This looks to be the latest clumsy, offensive and unprofessional installment of a truly dysfunctional government."

He said the fact that former foreign minister Alexander Downer and former Victorian premier John Brumby were on Huawei's Australian board, and that the company had a leading role in Britain's telecommunications sector, warranted the government considering it with "clear eyes".

"We must bear in mind that this is a company which is heavily involved in eight of nine NBN roll-outs around the world," Robb said.

The parliamentary pecuniary interest register shows opposition deputy leader Julie Bishop and frontbench colleague Bronwyn Bishop also visited Huawei's facilities as guests of the company.

Bishop declined to comment on the tender process, which she described as "a matter for the government", and said she had not been lobbied in regard to the NBN or any other matter.

"My trip included a tour of Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen, where I was shown some of the technology under development by its research and development division that comprises about half of Huawei's 120,000 staff," she told AAP.

Huawei Australia said it had issued an open invitation to all MPs, and the media, to tour its facilities.

The New Zealand Government was also reluctant to weigh in on the ban. New Zealand is in the process of rolling out its own high-speed broadband network and Huawei has been selected to provide portions of the network roll-out. Huawei Marine is also rolling out a 2300km cable between Auckland and Sydney to be finished by early 2013.

ICT Minister Amy Adams said the New Zealand Government doesn't comment on specific vendors, but said the government took security seriously.

"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 [Ultrafast Broadband] and [Rural Broadband Initiative] networks."

Disclosure: in May 2010, Josh Taylor visited Shanghai with flights and accommodation paid for by Huawei.

Updated at 5.33pm, 26 March 2012: added comment from opposition finance spokesperson Andrew Robb.

Topics: Government, Broadband, Government AU, NBN


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • As a western democracy we do what ever we like. When ever we like to protect our security from large totalitarian regimes. Without apology. The large number of spies in this country from China that our govt has stated are in the country and as its well established that they spy on ex Chinese nationals.

    I am a left winger myself, but the greens a naive and are not the people to protect our interests in this.
    Our Network
  • ...and had Huawei been chosen for a substantive roll in the NBN, the opposition would have blasted the government for taking undue security risks and then honed in on their perceived political ties.

    It's known as damned if you do and damned if you don't.

    Was it the right choice? We don't know but surely they wouldn't have taken such measures (nor would a L/NP government) for no reason, surely?
    • What I don't understand is given you indicated your knowledge of the communists intent to use the NBN to spy on the Australian people, that you are not able to share that knowledge with the rest of us?
      Knowledge Expert
      • This appears to be directed at me, not just a comment...?

        If so, wrong. At no stage have I suggested anything of the sort.

        Do you actually read and comprehend what anyone else says (apart from smart**se comments like below where you highlight Mudrat70's typo - fire instead of fibre).

        Or are you always off in your own little world?
        • They must have their reasons.
          Beta, The comment below is one made by yourself on another subject on ZDNet and lead to the conclusion that you know about the cause of the government disallowing Huawei from the tender process.
          On the other point if that offends Mudrat I'm sure he will tell me, just a bit of humour was intended.

          "After all the NBN is just one big commie plot and being so, surely Huawei would be most welcome by this loony left gubmint otherwise, eh?"
          Knowledge Expert
          • OMFG... you omitted the important and over-bearing part of that comment which was...


            I even spelled it out, FFS!

            Are you intentionally being ridiculous for sh!ts and giggles or does it just flow naturally?
          • Beta, Now I understand, that statement was intended to disparage my post.
            Knowledge Expert
          • No just to show it for what it is, foolish ;-)
          • Unfortunately you continue to disparage my posts. A small amount of respect for others view would be welcome.
            Knowledge Expert
    • "...and had Huawei been chosen for a substantive roll in the NBN, the opposition would have blasted the government for taking undue security risks and then honed in on their perceived political ties."

      Nailed it. Totally nailed it.
      Hubert Cumberdale
      • Hubert, what is your point?
        That the government should make commercial decisions without concrete evidence of any improper action of this company in Australia?
        Taking note that Huawei have been active in the Australian market for some years now.
        Is the government scared of questioning by the opposition?
        Will Huawei be barred from selling any equipment which connects to the NBN?
        This move by the government is really strange, much more to be told on this matter.
        Knowledge Expert
        • How do you know there isn't concrete evidence?

          Your whole argument is as usual, invalid.
          • Beta, I simply asking why both Hubert and yourself appear to support the government's decision without question.
            I think the government should make the case to the people of Australia, that is this company is banned from this tender because of.....
            Knowledge Expert
          • WRONG AGAIN...(at least you are consistent)!

            Read my lips, either the government have concrete evidence or they are discriminating against Huawei. Got it now.

            But why do you, without concrete evidence assume the government is wrong/do not have just cause and Huawei the poor victim?

            Seriously, you are another who would have been here screaming commie plot had they awarded anything to Huawei and you know it, so...

            But seriously, transparency is one thing, but anyone who says the government should release sensitive tendering material, pertaining to perceived espionage is either naive or downright stupid, imo.
          • Beta, I am not suggesting Huawei is a poor victim, they can look after themselves I am sure. I would not have been screaming "commie plot" if they had been awarded this contract. I understand and accept much of the worlds manufacturing takes place in China these days. The main point I am making is that Huawei equipment is already used in many organisations in Australia today. It just seems strange to exclude them from a tender process without explination. I dont think sensitive documents would be at risk because Huawei are excluded from presenting any tender documents to NBN.
            Knowledge Expert
          • So since you missed it A G A I N... "either the government have concrete evidence or they are discriminating against Huawei. Got it now"????
          • Beta, I understand your point now, which is aligned to mine. I have an additional expectation that the government will tell what is the reason they have barred Huawei from the tender process.
            Knowledge Expert
          • I think you agree with my sarcastic post, not the actual posts, but whatever.

            It takes all kinds!
          • Beta, no, I read all posts and consider them with positive intent.
            Knowledge Expert
          • "Hubert, what is your point?"

            What's yours?

            "Beta, I simply asking why both Hubert and yourself appear to support the government's decision without question."

            I don’t support the governments decision at all and nowhere I indicated that I do, my criticism of the opposition on this matter does not mean I support this action against Huawei and it is disingenuous to imply that I do... You do not know my thoughts etc.
            Hubert Cumberdale