Huawei has never had a national security issue: Australia chair

Huawei is again offering up its equipment and source code up for testing by intelligence agencies in an effort to avoid a ban on taking part in Australia's 5G rollouts.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Huawei is the most audited, inspected, reviewed, and critiqued IT company in the world, Australian chair John Lord has said, arguing again for the Chinese technology giant to be allowed to take part in 5G build-outs across the nation.

Speaking to the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday, Lord said that Huawei equipment has been used by telcos in Australia for almost 15 years, and there has never been a national security issue.

"After every kind of inspection, audit, review, nothing sinister has been found. No wrongdoing, no criminal action or intent, no 'back door', no planted vulnerability, and no 'magical kill switch'," Lord said.

"In fact, in our three decades as a company no evidence of any sort has been provided to justify these concerns by anyone -- ever."

Lord said Huawei is also offering to open an evaluation facility allowing government officials to carry out testing of its equipment at a classified level with access to the company's source code and hardware schematics, as it has in the UK, Canada, and New Zealand.

In this way, Australia's intelligence agencies can be sure there are no national security issues in any of its equipment, the chair added.

"We have end-to-end cybersecurity across our whole global supply chain ... and we also continue that end-to-end cybersecurity from the point of manufacture to delivery, implementation, and through the maintenance stage, so there's so many chances to check for vulnerabilities, and that's what we'll offer our clients," he said.

Lord also pointed out that all other technology and networking vendors have similar global supply chains, including Nokia, Ericsson, and Apple, with many parts made or assembled in China.

"When Huawei was excluded from the NBN, Alcatel Lucent, now Nokia, became the sole supplier of the fibre technology product GPON. That product is manufactured barely a kilometre down the road from Huawei's facility in Shanghai. The factory is called Shanghai Bell, a joint venture between Nokia and a Chinese State-owned enterprise," Lord explained.

"I highlight this not to be critical of Nokia, because Huawei obviously manufactures its products in China, but I do it to underline the reality of the world we live in. Our supply chains are global, our production lines are similar. Huawei or no Huawei, much of the 5G equipment will continue to be made in China."

Australians can also thank Huawei for their phone bills coming down in price, Lord said, due to increasing competition across networking companies and providing equipment for Optus, Vodafone, and TPG's new mobile network.

"We have made your broadband and telecom bills cheaper. We enable increased competition in the telecom market and we have brought affordable innovation to Australia which makes it better for individuals and businesses across the country," Lord argued.

"The importance of a competitive and innovative telecom sector is vital to Australia's economic future."

Lord added that Huawei would have no problems with registering under the Foreign Interference Bill if required to, but again stated that the company has no government links and is privately owned.

Other points raised by Lord were that 80 percent of Huawei's financing comes from non-Chinese global banks, two of which are Australian; that Huawei does have a communist party cell, but so do all other large companies operating in China, and they do not impact its operations; that it does not follow Chinese national intelligence laws in Australia; that the UK government is supportive of using Huawei's equipment in its networks; and that western companies including Nokia and Ericsson are undertaking 5G work in China.

According to Lord, Huawei's only failure in Australia and globally has been to not dispel such myths, with a "reluctance to be loud and boastful in public, and a reluctance to debate our detractors".

Excluding Huawei from 5G deployments will put Australia behind other nations, Lord added.

"We are the clear leader in 5G development," he said. "We lead the global patents for 5G technology, and will spend $700 million this year alone on 5G development. Australia's shouldn't miss out on this world-leading technology."

"Australia cannot sit back and think it can isolate itself from the technology rise of Asia. To do so would impact on us economically and remove ourselves from world-leading technology, while our trading competitors take full advantage of better technology, cheaper costs for that technology, and benefit from the productivity gains that flow.

"5G is a natural evolution from 4G, just like 4G was for 3G. Of course there will be great improvement and changes, but the network fundamentals do not change at all. So the question is, if Huawei can deliver 4G to Australia already why can't it do 5G?"

Speaking to media about Huawei's involvement in 5G networks earlier on Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government won't discuss any national security concerns publicly.

"We carefully consider, obviously, all the national security issues relating to telecommunications. But we'll continue to consider that and get the best advice on that from our security agencies. But I'm not going to have a public discussion about it here," Turnbull said.

"All of those matters are under very careful consideration. The 5G is an evolution of wireless telecommunications. It has different characteristics than, you know, what we're enjoying at the moment, 4G and before that 3G, processing is more distributed.

"It's a very different, much more powerful, much more pervasive technology because we're moving into the internet of everything, where just about everything will, one day or another, be connected to the internet by sensors and so forth. So it's a big evolution and one that we're focused on very carefully and in particular on the national security aspects of it."

Huawei had last week sent a letter to Australian members of Parliament, claiming recent comments made about national security concerns are "ill-informed and not based on facts".

The letter pointed out that Huawei has been incorporated within the national security frameworks of Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Canada, New Zealand, and Italy.

Australia's Shadow Minister for Defence Richard Marles had earlier this month approved a possible Huawei ban from 5G networks, citing the 2012 ban imposed on the company by the then-Labor government denying Huawei the ability to take part in the National Broadband Network (NBN).

His comments followed the government's decision to use AU$200 million in foreign aid funding rather than an offer from Huawei to build a high-speed subsea cable between Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands.

Earlier this month, Huawei had warned that being banned from providing 5G equipment to Australia's telcos would threaten the nation's ability to stay "ahead of the game" in its mobile networks due to restricting competition.

Lord has continually denied any national security concerns based on Chinese involvement in the running of its telco equipment in Australia, saying the company is talking to the Australian government "regularly".

Alleged US government documents leaked in January said the Trump Administration is considering setting standards for a nationwide 5G mobile network to prevent Chinese dominance in the industry.

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