Senator calls on Nick Xenophon to detail his Huawei contract terms

Rex Patrick compares working for Huawei as akin to working for Krupp or Messerschmitt in 1938.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Sam Mooy/Getty Images

South Australian independent Senator Rex Patrick has called on his former boss, and previous occupant of his Senate seat, Nick Xenophon to reveal the details of his contract with Huawei.

After leaving the Senate in 2017, Xenophon set up a law firm with former investigative journalist Mark Davis that was appointed as strategic counsel in 2019. The firm also represented Jordan Shanks in a recent high-profile defamation case.

Xenophon last week said he was running for the Senate again in the upcoming federal election.

On the basis of his return to public life, Patrick said in the Senate on Tuesday night that Xenophon should disclose the terms of his Huawei agreement.

"He was entitled, as a private individual, to work for whoever he wished. But the choice he made was akin to someone choosing to do PR work for the German companies Krupp or Messerschmitt in 1938," Patrick said.

"Mr Xenophon now says that he has not worked for Huawei for some time, though we don't know when he ceased. He now claims to support the Australian government's 5G ban on Huawei.

"As a declared Senate candidate, he should now, in the interests of transparency and accountability, disclose the full details of his contractual relationship with Huawei. He should disclose the terms, conditions and duration of his contract; what instructions he accepted from Huawei; and precisely what services he and Mr Davis were paid for."

Patrick pointed out that Xenophon had previously called for the same from another former Senator, and did not register with the Australian Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme.

"In this, he appears to have relied on the exemption for persons providing legal advice to foreign organisations and a claim that he was not directly lobbying government ministers. However, the work that Xenophon Davis did for Huawei appears to have been largely in the public relations field and directed towards influencing the federal government to reopen the door for Huawei to infiltrate Australia's 5G telecommunications network," Patrick said.

"That is of course one of 14 demands the Chinese government has made before they will reconsider their current hostile stance towards Australia."

The current Senator also raised allegations that Huawei has been involved in helping Chinese authorities oppress Uyghurs, using backdoors in its carrier equipment to assist in state esponiage, and having close ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

"In December last year it was revealed, further, that as early as 2012 Australian intelligence detected a sophisticated penetration into our telecommunications system, an intrusion that began with a software update from Huawei that delivered malicious code," Patrick said.

"Mr Xenophon declared that Huawei was an 'underdog'. I'm not sure how a vast Chinese conglomerate with global networks backed by the Chinese state could ever be described as an underdog, but that was his description. This was all a misjudgement on Mr Xenophon's part."

Patrick said that critical infrastructure like telecommunication must be completely secure from foreign interference and possible sabotage.

"There can't be any compromise when it comes to Australian national security, nor can there be compromises on human rights," Patrick said.

"Mr Xenophon has declared his political candidacy. In the interests of accountability and transparency, he should make an immediate disclosure of all the details of his work for Huawei. I urge him to do so. Voters can then make their own judgement."

In its yearly results announced earlier this week, Huawei reported a 29% drop in revenue to $100 billion, as profitability lifted 76% to $17.9 billion.

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