Former Victorian Premier steps down from Huawei Australia board

Huawei Australia board member John Brumby has stepped down, calling the timing unrelated to ongoing legal issues and the 5G ban in Australia.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Former Victorian Premier John Brumby has stepped down from the board of Huawei Australia, the Chinese networking giant has announced.

Speaking with media on Friday, Brumby said that after eight years at Huawei, he would be stepping down effective from March 1, 2019. One of the original independent board members of Huawei Australia, Brumby added that chair John Lord had thanked him for his service.

Brumby will be taking on the role of Chancellor at La Trobe University, calling it a "pleasure" to serve on the Huawei Australia board and citing revenue and business increases during that time.

He noted recent challenges, but said Huawei still has "world-leading equipment" that has served both Optus and Vodafone across their 4G networks. He argued that the timing of the resignation was unrelated to the 5G ban and Huawei's ongoing legal issues in the United States.

"The timing of my retirement from the Board is completely unrelated to any recent commentary regarding China and Huawei. More than a year ago, I advised the Board and Huawei HQ of my intention to retire to make time for new commitments I was taking on in early 2019. I remain a strong supporter of closer ties between Australia and China, particularly in the fields of investment, trade, education and R&D," Brumby said.

Huawei was banned by the Australian government from playing a role in any 5G rollouts in August 2018 due to national security issues stemming from concerns of foreign government interference in critical communications infrastructure.

Huawei at the time slammed the Australian government's decision, saying it as not based in fact or a result of a transparent process, but rather, motivated by political instability thanks to infighting in the Liberal party.

"The Australian government's decision to block Huawei from Australia's 5G market is politically motivated, not the result of a fact-based, transparent, or equitable decision-making process. It is not aligned with the long-term interests of the Australian people, and denies Australian businesses and consumers the right to choose from the best communications technology available," Huawei HQ said at the time.

In the last week alone, carrier TPG said it has been forced to end its mobile network rollout due to the ban on Huawei 5G equipment, while the Western Australian government said it would be looking to review its contract with Huawei.

On Thursday, Optus CEO Allen Lew denied that the Huawei ban had an impact on his carrier's 5G rollout, telling ZDNet that it neither slowed it down nor made equipment more expensive. He added that the federal government had given plenty of notice prior to the ban.

As well as Australia, Huawei's 5G equipment in recent months has also been banned or limited by the US and New Zealand, while the UK's BT said it will be stripping Huawei from EE's mobile core.

South Korea's largest carrier also announced that its 5G vendors would be Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung, with Huawei left off its list.

On Friday, the New York Times reported that Vodafone has also temporarily stopped buying Huawei equipment for its 5G core network.

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, meanwhile, has again faced court in Canada over her bail, with Justice William Ehrcke approving a change in who is financially responsible for bail ahead of her extradition hearing. Ehrcke additionally postponed her next court appearance to March.

"I can confirm that the United States has filed a formal request with my department for the extradition of Ms Meng," Canadian Justice Minister David Lametti told media in Ottawa.

Meng is personally facing one count each for conspiracy to commit bank fraud; conspiracy to commit wire fraud; bank fraud; and wire fraud.

The indictment against Meng claims that during meetings with an unnamed banking institution in the US, she misrepresented Huawei's ownership and control of Iranian affiliate Skycom, as well as its compliance with UN, US, and EU sanctions.

Huawei is also facing counts for conspiracy to defraud the United States; violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA); violate the IEEPA; commit money laundering; and obstruct justice. 

The company is also facing allegations, for a separate indictment, that it conspired to steal intellectual property from T-Mobile and subsequently obstructed justice. The alleged activity occurred during 2012-13, and relates to Huawei's attempt to build a robot similar to the one T-Mobile was using at the time to test mobile phones.

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