Western Australia to review Huawei deal: Report

The WA government is reviewing whether the US charges against Huawei will prevent the Chinese company from supplying equipment under a AU$136 million contract to construct and manage the data and voice digital radio systems for the state's Public Transport Authority.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Western Australian government is reportedly looking to review its contract with Huawei in the wake of the Chinese networking giant facing charges from the US on conspiracy, bank fraud, wire fraud, obstruction of justice, money laundering, and conspiring to steal intellectual property.

According to The West Australian, state Transport Minister Rita Saffioti confirmed the review, saying the government needs reassurance that actions taken by the US will not affect the supply of equipment in Australia.

"The Public Transport Authority is currently seeking advice from the contractor regarding any potential impacts of these risks on the delivery of the project," Saffioti reportedly told the newspaper.

The minister's office confirmed that she had made those comments to the publication.

According to a spokesperson for Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan, the review is based on logistical grounds rather than security concerns, the report added.

Back in July last year -- a month prior to Canberra's ban on Huawei for 5G in Australia -- the Chinese networking giant won a AU$136 million contract to construct and manage the digital radio systems for data and voice services for Western Australia's Public Transport Authority (PTA) as part of a joint venture with UGL.

Under the Radio Systems Replacement project, Huawei was contracted to design, install, and commission a digital radio solution along Perth's 180km rail network, including the new Forrestfield-Airport Link tunnels.

The system will utilise a 4G LTE network using PTA's 1800MHz spectrum holdings, and involve the instalment of outdoor cabinets and towers.

Once complete, Huawei-UGL would then service and maintain the system for five years, with the option to do so for a further 10 years.

Huawei began work on the project in July 2018, to be completed by 2021, with the Chinese technology giant saying it would employ over 50 local steel and labour workers during this time.

The contract was awarded a month after Saffioti said federal government agencies had advised the state that they were unfazed by the prospect of Huawei winning the contract.

Saffioti said the state government had contacted federal agencies to "quadruple check" if there were any security concerns.

"We have been in constant dialogue with the federal government," she said last year. "We're making sure the federal government is entirely comfortable with the process.

"We can only take the advice that we're given from those agencies."

Australian carrier TPG earlier this week said it is ending its mobile network rollout due to the ban on Huawei 5G equipment handed down by Canberra in August.

As well as Australia, Huawei's 5G equipment in recent months has also far 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.

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.

"There's a lot of China bashing going on and Huawei is getting swept up in that and it's frustrating for me and for our global board," Huawei Australia chair John Lord on Wednesday told Nine media.

"I won't comment on the US sanctions because that's before the courts ... but the company does treat it all as a global issue, and from day one, Ren [Zhengfei, the company founder] said we obey all UN sanctions and US sanctions."

With AAP

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