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New Zealand's Huawei conundrum

Huawei's ban from Australia's National Broadband Network has generated ripples in New Zealand, ripples that could leave our government looking exposed and foolish.
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Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor on

Huawei's ban from Australia's National Broadband Network has generated ripples in New Zealand, ripples that could leave our government looking exposed and foolish.

After all, while Australia takes the cautious route of banning the Chinese company from the project on grounds of national security, by contrast, Wellington has been jumping into bed with Beijing.

Our moderate centre-right National-led government is happy to let Huawei work on our own ultra-fast broadband initiative. Not only that, Prime Minister John Key has cited Huawei as an example of a company to do business with. The Australian Prime Minister, however, is sceptical of the arrangement. The opposition Labour party of New Zealand is vocally against it.

This is odd for a party that likes to make a lot of noise about being against racism (it was Labour who signed New Zealand up to a Free Trade Agreement with China when Helen Clark was in power).

So why is the NZ left now beating the nationalist drum and raising fears of China now they are no longer in government? Are there real security concerns?

We hear tales of cyber-espionage and we hear that security issues were revealed in Wikileaks-released cables two years ago. Other defence experts in New Zealand also see Huawei as a front for Chinese interests.

With this in mind, we had perhaps best play it safe.

After all, as explained by commentator Matthew Hooton in the National Business Review last weekend, New Zealand's actions pit it against those of old friends Australia and the USA. Not only is this odd, but it flies in the face of history. We should not reject our old allies, especially if doing so jeopardises our security.

If Huawei is innocent, New Zealand can simply say it was prudent and was following its friends, something it is often happy to do on other issues. If Huawei is guilty, Key and our National-led government can breathe a sigh of relief and thank our allies.

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