Labor endorses possible Huawei 5G ban as repeating its NBN ban

As the party in power when Huawei was banned from being involved in Australia's NBN, Shadow Minister for Defence Richard Marles has given a thumbs up to talk of the Chinese telecommunications giant being banned from 5G deployments.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Labor Shadow Minister for Defence Richard Marles has given approval to a possible banning of Huawei from 5G network deployments, stating it is in line with the 2012 ban imposed on the company by the then-Labor government that denied Huawei the ability to bid for NBN work.

Asked if he agreed with Fairfax reports that Huawei will be banned from being involved in building out 5G networks, Marles told Sky News on Thursday that he did "on the face of it".

"Given that it replicates a decision that was made under the Labor government, the answer was yes," he said.

"Certainly when we were in government that's what we did, and a call of that kind was previously made in relation to Huawei and national security clearly matters. This is a fundamental piece of infrastructure. If we were in government we'd be listening to those national security agencies to get their advice on this."

Marles further added that it was correct that Australia locked Huawei out of building a subsea cable between Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands by digging into its foreign aid budget to find approximately AU$200 million to pay for two-thirds of the cost of the cable.

"At the end of the day it's the outcome which matters here," Marles said. "I guess I would have preferred that Australia was the natural partner of choice for Solomon Islands from the outset."

Speaking with ABC this morning, Huawei Australia chair John Lord said he did not believe there was any truth to the reports.

"We have not been advised of that, we are still talking openly with government, and passing information both ways," he said.

Last week, Lord said Huawei is privately owned by its employees, and denied any national security concerns based on involvement from Beijing.

"We provide those vendors -- Optus, Vodafone, TPG, and perhaps the Telstras -- with equipment. They operate the equipment. Now, we may do maintenance, but that maintenance is done by the over 700 employees -- who are Australians -- for Huawei, or we subcontract it. We don't have Chinese nationals doing the maintenance on the equipment we provide to the major telcos," he explained.

"We believe that all telcos should be open, and equipment should be checked. We build equipment on the supposition that nations or companies or rogues will try and crack your equipment. So to have the best cybersecurity is the best business."

Speaking on Thursday, Lord pointed out that the local company is highly involved in 4G, and that technology will continue to be needed for some time despite the arrival of 5G.

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