AG blocks NBN FOI to protect 'international relations'

The Department of the Attorney-General has followed NBN Co in blocking the release of documents relating to the ban of Huawei tendering for the NBN.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Department of the Attorney-General took close to six months to decide against any public release of documents relating to the government's decision to ban Chinese network giant Huawei from tendering for the National Broadband Network (NBN).

The documents were sought by ZDNet via a Freedom of Information Request, filed back in March, seeking to explain why the government had directed NBN Co not to award any tenders to Huawei, with the government citing national security concerns.

It is believed that the Australian Government was concerned with Huawei's close ties with the Chinese Government.

NBN Co refused an FOI request last month, and last Friday, over five months after the filing, the Attorney-General's department followed suit.

In the decision, the Attorney-General's Department said that releasing the documents could damage the "security of the Commonwealth", the "defence of the Commonwealth" and would "cause damage to the international relations of the Commonwealth".

The department also said the release of the documents would adversely affect Huawei.

While the department's decision to refuse ZDNet's FOI request took longer than NBN Co's, the refusal was not unexpected. NBN Co had previously cited advice from the Attorney-General's Department in its refusal to release 10 documents.

The move comes while a joint parliamentary committee reviews Australia's telecommunications interception and security laws. Aside from proposing to force internet service providers to retain customer data for up to two years, one of the proposals put forward by the government would give government agencies greater power to influence what vendors communications companies choose to roll out their network infrastructure, in particular the core of their networks, which could be potential targets for infiltration.

Vodafone and Optus already use Huawei network equipment, and Telstra has previously trialled Huawei gear as part of its Long-Term Evolution (LTE) trials.

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