Govt bans Huawei from NBN tenders


news Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon appears to have confirmed that her department has banned Chinese networking giant Huawei from participating in the multi-billion dollar National Broadband Network tendering process, despite the company not being accused of having broken any pertinent laws in Australia.

The Financial Review reported this morning that the deputy secretary of Roxon’s department, Tony Sheehan, had informed Huawei Australia chairman and retired Rear Admiral John Lord, late in 2011 that Huawei should not bother tendering for any NBN contracts because of the possibility of Chinese cyber attacks through Huawei’s networking hardware. NBN Co is not known to have signed any contracts with Huawei.

A spokesperson for NBN Co declined to comment on the matter. Asked to comment about the issue this morning, Roxon’s office issued the following statement to Delimiter:

“The National Broadband Network (NBN) is the largest nation-building project in Australian history, and it will become the backbone of Australia’s information infrastructure. As such, and as a strategic and significant Government investment, we have a responsibility to do our utmost to protect its integrity and that of the information carried on it. This is consistent with the government’s practice for ensuring the security and resilience of Australia’s critical infrastructure more broadly.”

A number of other major networking hardware suppliers from diverse international countries, such as Nokia Siemens Networks (Finland), Ericsson (Sweden), Cisco (the United States), Alcatel-Lucent (France) and others have won major contracts with NBN Co over the past several years. However, none of those firms have had their foreign interests questioned in public by NBN Co or the Government.

The revelation of the Government’s move represents the latest in a long-running series of attacks on the Chinese company by various organisations in Australia. Throughout the past several years, a number of media outlets and other groups have attempted to link Huawei as a private corporate entity with Chinese political and military interests, citing such claimed links as evidence for why the company may not be suitable as a supplier of telecommunications supplier to major government or private sector projects.

However, throughout that period, Huawei has strongly denied that any undue influence exists on its commercial operations. In addition, no technical proof of any so-called ‘backdoors’ in Huawei’s infrastructure has ever been presented in public. The company continues to be a key supplier of networking equipment to major Australian telcos such as Optus and Vodafone, and the company has also conducted trials of its equipment with Telstra. Other Australian telcos it works with include AAPT, vividwireless, Primus and TPG.

Huawei is also gradually becoming a major consumer electronics brand in Australia (as it is in China), and has retail partnerships with giant local firms such as Woolworths. The company is believed to have approximately 600 staff based in Australia.

In an attempt to defray the allegations and demonstrate its commitment to Australia, in June last year Huawei appointed former Labor Victorian Premier John Brumby and former Liberal Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to its local board, along with Lord as its local chairman. The news marked the first time Huawei has created a local board with three independent directors anywhere in the world, according to the company.

In response to questions on the issue, this morning Huawei issued a transcript of an interview its director of corporate & public affairs, Jeremy Mitchell (a former executive with Telstra) gave with Sky News today.

Mitchell stated that internationally, Huawei was “the global leader in building NBNs”, and in fact the second-largest supplier of telecommunications technology in general. “Of the 9 NBN’s being built around the world we are delivering 8 of them, and that also includes the United Kingdom where for the last 6 years we have been the sole supplier of the technology we would like to put in the Australian NBN,” he said. “So we are clearly the world leader, we have the best technology, so we do believe we can play a role in the Australian NBN.” Huawei, he added, worked with 45 out of the top 50 telecommunications companies globally.

Mitchell said Huawei understood that the issue of cyber-security was a sensitive one for governments, and was becoming one of the biggest threats governments were facing. However, he pointed out that Huawei wouldn’t be able to obtain the level of customer interest it had from the top telcos globally if those customers didn’t trust the company, its workers and its equipment. To further defray any concerns Australia’s Government might have, Mitchell said, Huawei was happy to supply the Government with the source code to its equipment and to have its products audited by Australian citizens who had received security clearances. In fact, he noted, Huawei had gone through this same process with the UK Government.

With respect to Huawei being a Chinese company and facing challenges specific to that background, Mitchell said it was “a new era”. “It’s a new era for everyone and we’re confident that we can get over this hurdle,” he said.

Delimiter intends to file Freedom of Information requests with NBN Co and the Federal Attorney-General’s Department to determine what advice, precisely, has been provided to NBN Co on the matter.

Given that Huawei has not been accused of having broken any Australian or international laws, I regard the Federal Government’s extraordinary apparent intervention in NBN Co’s tendering processes as potentially unlawful. Usually there are very strict legal requirements around government tendering processes (even for government-owned companies such as NBN Co), and I would be very surprised if the Federal Government’s actions here haven’t broken quite a few of its own regulations. I also expect that internally, NBN Co’s procurement staff are furious about this issue. I will be investigating this legal issue specifically over the succeeding few weeks.

If the Federal Government has evidence that Huawei is in bed with Chinese military or political interests, let that evidence be presented in public. Until it is, we must regard the Attorney-General’s stance on the issue as being without any legitimate basis.


  1. While it’s not completely uncommon for various vendors to be asked not to submit tender responses – (often, it’s about “we just don’t think it’s the right vendor for us”, and that does happen) – this one is a bit odd.

    I understand the reasoning but it’s jumping at shadows a little.

    *tin foil hat*

    • True, but that behaviour is much more common (and legitimate) in the private sector. In government agencies and government-owned companies, open tenders are the norm — and there are a stack of regulations stipulating that anyone must be able to respond to such tenders, to prohibit favouritism. This is public money being spent here — and Huawei is not just any networking vendor. They’re one of the absolute top networking vendors, and one of the most popular globally in precisely these kind of projects.

      • It’s not like we can’t get people to check for security holes etc built in to the products. Huawei has been building an international reputation, to get caught leaving access to supposedly friendly nations (let alone customers) core networks would make them a pariah over night.

        Besides, isn’t this supposed to be the asian century? I seem to recall Jools and co. saying something along those lines a couple of times…

  2. This is very strange and disappointing, Huawei isn’t just a global leader because they cheaper, they also provide one of the best NMS platforms, hardware that is highly reliable by comparison, provide excellent support, etc.

    NBN Co. need to take off their tin foils and get back to reality.

    • The Huawei NMS platform is just a cheap copy of HP Openview…….nothing special there.

    • Quoting Tezz
      “This is very strange and disappointing, Huawei isn’t just a global leader because they cheaper, they also provide one of the best NMS platforms, hardware that is highly reliable by comparison, provide excellent support, etc.”

      Are you serious? They’re recognized in the Service Provider space BECAUSE they are cheaper. They provide free equipment in some cases (I’ve seen it first hand) in hopes that government linked projects flow their way (yeah, the Chinese government is hard at work here)

      Now, your second comment about “highly reliable” and “provide excellent support” – Surely you’ve never had to try and troubleshoot a problem right? They throw engineers at customers in hopes that enough bodies will solve a problem. I have seen this in Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia. First hand….

      Regarding the NMS platform, surely you’ve not working on other vendors products before. You’ll see direct and blatant copying of those. Have you user theirs and others or just speculating?

      • I was going to give you a serious reply, but then two things occurred to me.

        1/ Someone who has the experience you claim to have would be reasonably high in the food chain and would know that berating a vendor that is currently in use by (at least) 2 of the top telcos in Australia and in trials with the biggest, whether it be true or not, is a terrible career move.

        2/ Anyone who justifies their posts by saying “I’m right because I have all this experience and qualifications”, means they don’t have that experience or qualifications.

        If you’ve got something serious to say then please by all means add it to the conversation (or preferably to a more recent Huawei article so others can get involved and respond and your thoughts don’t just disappear), but please stop speaking BS.

        • A couple of things you have mistaken.

          1) I wasn’t berating this vendor. Your original message said
          “This is very strange and disappointing, Huawei isn’t just a global leader because they cheaper, they also provide one of the best NMS platforms, hardware that is highly reliable by comparison, provide excellent support, etc.”
          — My comments were that they are listed as a global “leader” because THEY ARE CHEAP. They don’t invent new technologies or create next-gen architectures, they merely copy (see Cisco’s lawsuit from command line copying) and provide a cheaper solution. I have seen them throw engineers on site to help customers because frankly speaking, the crap didn’t work. I’ve also seen them provide equipment for free, in hopes further government linked contracts come there way.

          2) I didn’t say “I’m right because I have all this experience and qualifications” and I don’t know who you quoted but I did not say that. So if you do decide to reply to my comment, do not falsely quote me.

          And for your final, glorious comment of “but please stop speaking BS”. Please point out any inaccuracies in my statements or experience.

          Furthermore, I’ve recently read this
          Australian National University’s Desmond Ball insists there’s “no doubt” Huawei is involved in cyber espionage, and New Zealand-based security analyst Paul Buchanan says the notion that Huawei is truly independent of the Chinese government is “ludicrous.”

          • You dug up a 2 week old article on a topic that has been covered numerous times in subsequent articles, to claim factual evidence that Huawei is involved in some sort of espionage. Plenty of other people have made accusations, and that’s cool because that is the basis of debate,but you’re the first one that claims to have factual knowledge based on your experience.

            The argument of course whether Huawei is doing this is of course the crux of the discussion, so is kind of important.

            You’ve now said this ..

            Furthermore, I’ve recently read this
            Australian National University’s Desmond Ball insists there’s “no doubt” Huawei is involved in cyber espionage, and New Zealand-based security analyst Paul Buchanan says the notion that Huawei is truly independent of the Chinese government is “ludicrous.”

            Please source this information, whether it be a link or by another means I don’t care, but source it. And I think it’s fair to say that the information source should be more than just an opinion or suspicion of the person and have hard facts backing it.

            I’m sorry, but you claimed knowledge of evidence and were not just make assertions, it’s time to back up that claimed knowledge with actual evidence.

          • Yeah yeah, I can only presume you’re eeze since they posted that link the other day (I got the email but it never made the site). Paul Buchanan was mentioned in a previous post, here’s his only mention in the article.

            “Australian National University’s Desmond Ball insists there’s “no doubt” Huawei is involved in cyber espionage, and New Zealand-based security analyst Paul Buchanan says the notion that Huawei is truly independent of the Chinese government is “ludicrous””

            With the bit in bold linking to this article on “China’s Growing Spy Threat” as evidence ..

            That article mentions Huawei a total of zero times.

            If all the evidence that Huawei is committing illegal activities, information gathering, etc, is provided by fear mongering and unproven speculation, then it my book it’s pretty flimsy evidence, and if this sort of level of scrutiny is required on a company that has never been proven to have done anything wrong then that same level of scrutiny should apply to every company tendering for NBN contracts.

  3. A French security expert (hard core grey hat type) once advised me that in selecting encryption and networking kit, the criteria should relate to which government worries you least. The corollary is that all networking kit has security perforations, and it is simply a question of who has access to these opportunities.

    Having worked in a number of the vendors described, I don’t doubt his advice. Call me tin hat too.

    • “which government worries you least”

      Well … that certainly wouldn’t be the US Government, for me (in the case of Cisco, for example).

  4. This isn’t really a matter of technical ability, but I’m not sure if referring to the likes of cut rate providers like TPG and Vodafone builds up your credibility in this area. Also, it is interesting that Simon Hackett has long considered Ericsson the go to company for Internode, as have iiNet. And I’m sure they’ve tested Huawei kit being the diligent companies they are.

    But, again that’s not what this is really about. Why should a company be excluded almost solely on the basis of being Chinese? Very good question. While Chinas has an onerous history of cyber-incidents, most notably the Gmail fiasco, I’m not sure if all Chinese firms ought to be smeared by that brush.

    I think the reality here is, with the clandestine nature of China, we’ll probably never whether Ren Zhengfei
    (Huawei CEO) is as close to the Chinese Communist Party as some would claim. I certainly don’t know the answer, but it has been raised as an issue of serious concern by the governments of India and the United States. This isn’t a statement of fact, it’s very much an opinion, but the fact that Ren has been able to build Huawei into a global leader in Telco gear, while remaining Private is fascinating to say the least.

    Looking forward to your investigative work into the legalities of the AG’s decision. But as an interesting side-bar, Nicola Roxon apparently topped her year for Law at Melbourne Uni. So, something tells me she’s most likely dotted every I, and crossed every T on such a diplomatically fraught issue.

    • If you know anything at all about China, you’ll realise that the whole country has links to the Chinese Communist Party. It’s just the way things work there.

      However, this doesn’t mean that a Chinese networking company is going to insert backdoors into routers which it manufactures for international sale. Most of Apple’s iPhones are manufactured by Chinese giant Foxconn. Is the Federal Government refusing to buy iPhones because they’re made in China? No.

      There’s a very simple solution to all of this. All the Federal Government has to do, as the UK Government did, is get the Defense Signals Directorate or anyone else to audit Huawei’s source code, as the company has offered. What more could you want?

      As for iiNet and Internode, most of their DSLAMs (supplied by Ericsson) were rolled out before Huawei was a major force in that area. Right now, however, Huawei is eating Ericsson’s lunch in so many areas it’s not funny — not to mention how it’s threatening Nokia Siemens Networks, Alcatel-Lucent and even Cisco. This is a legitimate company and must be treated as such. The position which the Attorney-General’s Department has taken on this issue is absurd.

      • “It doesn’t stop the federal government buying iPhones”

        The federal government may purchase iPhones, however the Defence Singals Directorate hasn’t cleared the devices for anything above a very low level of classification. High level documents such as classified can not be read or transmitted on iPhones.

        • *shrugs*

          Qld’s Cabinet seems pretty OK with using iPads for cabinet documents. I’m pretty sure similar moves are being debated in the Federal Govt as well:

          Plus … it’s well known that many ministers carry around iPhones alongside their govt-issued BlackBerrys. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy is an example. Are you going to tell me that they don’t use these devices for extremely confidential communications? ;)

          • You can’t seriously consider the type of information dealt with by the Queensland government to be on the same level as the federal government which deals with top secret ASIO and ASIS documents. Steven Conroy has a blackberry and an iPhone because the blackberry is cleared for sensitive documents. The iPhone is not.

          • Julian,

            this is a side issue to the main debate. The point is that there are lots of products whose security we don’t discount simply because they’re made in China.


          • This is different. As a vendor Huawei poses a significant security threat. The government would not be discounting Huawei as a bidder unless there was some sort of security threat that is not being publicly discussed.

            The NBN will be vital infrastructure for Australia’s future and something so important would be dangerous in the hands of the Chinese. Who although we are doing business with are constantly hacking into government computers to steal sensitive information whilst publicly playing up out friendship as countries.

            Whilst I would also be weary of a bid by CISCO, as America is often just as guilty as China for questionable acts of espionage, at the moment Huawei poses a significant threat.

          • This is different. As a vendor Huawei poses a significant security threat. The government would not be discounting Huawei as a bidder unless there was some sort of security threat that is not being publicly discussed.

            Couple of problems.

            If Huawei is a security threat, why is only one other NBN rollout around the world not using Huawei?

            And more importantly, if it is a security threat, then why hasn’t the government laid down the law to prevent Service Providers and Carriers from using Huawei equipment? After all even if the NBN itself doesn’t use Huawei, there’s a good change the equipment on the other side of the NBN POI is.

          • I don’t think it’s so much as a security threat, then a security risk.

            if you look at it this way;

            – NBN Constantly being attacked by the media, opposition
            – NBN is the largest undertaking (in terms of monetary and labour) of infrastructure in one go, in Australia’s federated history

            Now, if you’re a government that’s ‘besieged at all sides’ (used metaphorically), it would probably want to minimise all risks that it’s flagship will be attacked/sunk. Now we take that all source code has its bugs and quirks that allow exploitation (take Microsoft, Java, Adobe etc), who would be the likely people to first know about it? I’m not saying there’s back doors, i’m saying that if an exploit was found it would more than likely come from China.

            The Attorney-General’s Department (as much as i despise them sometimes, AFACT anyone?) has probably decided to just err on the side of caution this time around. And if it means spending a few extra bucks to go with well established companies like Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson etc over a company that’s been trading for nigh on 7 years (2005 IIRC), then it’s probably worth it.

          • I agree, the NBN is too important, I applaud the government decision, if you can infiltrate or bring down a countries communication system, at the least you cause mistrust in the system and at the other mayhem.

  5. Since the incumbent vendors know they don’t need to compete with Huawei on price for NBN tenders, they can keep their lucrative high margin pricing. They have had the most to gain financially from all the FUD about Huawei that keeps being fed to the press.

  6. It is crazy for the NBN to be a no go zone for Huawei. Huawei have got a foot in the door in the power industry and are now providing the DWDM backbone for electricity transmission in Queensland (,huawei-to-set-up-australian-board.aspx). I think that having backdoor control of the power grid is more of a concern than control of the NBN, and if the professionally paranoid people (PPP) at Powerlink are happy with Huawei, then I think we all should be.

  7. Whatever the reasons for this decision, it hardly blocks Huawei from being involved with NBN-related networks – I’m sure there are several RSPs and backhaul providers that could well use Huawei equipment, now or in the future, which would connect to the NBN POI. If there’s to be a witchhunt on the use of their products (even if justified) then it would logically have to extend to all networks carrying NBN traffic, wouldn’t it? After all, no one can connect to the NBN without also using an RSP as well, along with all that RSP’s network assets.

    It’s about as illogical as the “NBN = government censorship” folly that gets raised from time to time.

  8. It doesn’t matter. Sooner or later NBN WILL BE TRANSFERRED TO the telco. Which telco is using huawei equipments or will be using Huawei equipments ?

    GOVERNMENT WILL BE JUST using more tax payers Monies to pay for with Cisco, Ericsson and whatever. Another waste of money.

    But the issue here is:

    Australian is the champion of Innocent until proven guilty. Huawei has not even submitted an tenders to the NBN. They have been assisted. Their reputation have been killed. That’s the issue. One rule and law for all or Australian government is no different from the so called Chinese communist government ?

  9. It doesn’t matter. Sooner or later NBN WILL BE TRANSFERRED TO the telcos. Which telco is not using huawei equipments or will be using Huawei equipments ?

    GOVERNMENT WILL BE JUST using more tax payers Monies to pay for with Cisco, Ericsson and whatever. Another waste of money.

    But the issue here is:

    Australian is the champion of Innocent until proven guilty. Huawei has not even submitted an tenders to the NBN. They have been assisted. Their reputation have been killed. That’s the issue. One rule and law for all or Australian government is no different from the so called Chinese communist government ?

  10. Communist China is anathema to democracies.

    Ignorance of history, is no excuse. Who invaded India? Who invaded Korea? Who invaded Vietnam? Wanna guess who is not buying there kit? Tibet is buying there kit, but then it is occupied by China….

    Huawei is not to be trusted, as it is a product of a tyrannical regime. Notice this is about the regime and most assuredly not about ethnicity.

    I’m very happy our government has made this judgement.

    • Invaded India? That would be Great Britain. No IT industry left to speak of (Marconi, Burroughs etc all dead). Invaded Vietnam? That would be France, but Alcatel-Lucent is OK with you?

      The US has shown that they treat personal freedoms and privacy just as deplorably as any dictatorship or communist country. Yet we’re happy to put Cisco routers into the core of everything?

      I use networking equipment from many countries: USA, Germany, Taiwan and New Zealand. The trick is to use equipment together to keep an eye on the other gear. Network taps and read only network cards give a good idea of what is going on. Don’t trust the mirror ports!

  11. Whether we like it or not and whether it is politically correct or not, the government’s (Labor or Coalition) primary duty is to the citizens of Australia’s safety and well being and telecommunications is a matter of national security.

    Now I may be accused of wearing the tin foil hat, being a conspiracy theorist, anti China or whatever, but if there is any perception of risk to national security by any country, it must be acted upon. Not comparing China to these nations, but in the name of political correctness, should we also welcome with open arms, vendors from Iran and North Korea?

    Turn back the clock and in hindsight imagine us, with our political correctness of everyone is equal (thoughts evidently only shared and adopted by a small number of countries) having another country, particularly one or two, in control of our telecommunications from 1940-1945?

    Remembering throughout history the many conflicts, let’s be fair but not apathetically blaze. After all we are right now, involved in two military conflicts!

    • Come off it mate. So we’re happy to sell the Chinese trillions of dollars worth of minerals from Western Australia but when it comes to buying network routers from them (which are some of the best in the world, already used by telcos everywhere), we’re suddenly treating them as a rogue regime like North Korea or Iran? Somewhat of a double standard there.

  12. The article does seem rather heavily slanted. It claims the existence of a smear campaign to link Huawei with Chinese government interests, but it doesn’t provide any links to let us examine the merits of such claims. And it makes a big deal of the fact that there are no proven backdoors in Huawei equipment – but if they exist, they probably won’t be found without a lengthy analysis of the source code and hardware, so this isn’t really evidence either way.

    Given the obvious slant in the article, I suspect that some of the supposedly factual statements may have been exaggerated, too. For example, if Huawei has offered source code to be inspected for security risks, does this mean that they’ve offered full access to all the code and hardware specifications that would be required for a proper audit, or that they’re just willing to provide a subset of it? The latter would allow backdoors to remain hidden, while still allowing news outlets like this one to make misleading claims.

    • It’s not a slanted article. I don’t have a bias towards or against any company I report on. But I do have a bias towards basing my articles on evidence and not on speculation and conspiracy theories.

      If there is evidence of Huawei breaking any law, let the Govt or anyone else present it.

      • For a start Renai, the Australian goverrnment doesnt have to report anything, to you, me or the Australian public when it comes to things of national security, which the minister considers this to be. Theres is no dead body, smoking gun or documents stating ( I did It ). The minster who we vote in to make these decisions has decide in consultation with security agencies etc, that this company ( where it is based is un important ) has security problems. That much so that the Australian government has decided to take the extraordinany decision to state this publicly. This has happened before with many other companies around the world. Usually it is handled diplomatically but on this occasion it appear that diplomancy has failed. This proberly explains the public announcement by the Australian government.

        • *shrugs*

          The Government decides many silly things without any rational basis; the Internet filter being a prime example of this. We didn’t accept government irrationality on that issue — why should we accept it now?

          Again, I highlight the need for evidence. If the Govt has evidence about Huawei’s links with cyber-espionage, it should present it, so that other Huawei customers can be informed in their dealings with the company.

          • The Government decides many silly things without any rational basis;
            What is silly or isnt, what is rationaly or irrrational is purely subjective. You only have to look out the window to see how highly organised our institutions are, to realise some ones go it right, although there is always room for improvement.
            Watch out for that word WE, the vast majority of Australians are in favor of censership, (Delimiter is too small a sample) it’s in every other form of media, the argument is in the degree.
            Well I guess the reasons behind the governments announcement is on a Need to Know Basis and the government has decided Renai, that you dont need to know.

  13. haralambos

    China invaded korea ?
    China invaded Vietnam?
    China invade India?

    what drugs are you on?

    queen victoria sent captian cook with a ton of gold and landed on botany bay and were invited by the people of the land to come on board and have a cup of tea?

    stop talking craps.

    the issue here is a company who has not be caught, nor proven to have spied or created equipments, installed, implemented equipments to spy or hack into networks for china or anyone else.

    and they have been assasinated because their owner or chairman used to be an engineer for the military … what happened to innocent until proven guilty. And huawei has “”””not even tender for the NBN””””.

    HSBC Bank …. British largest bank was created due to the british empire stealing people from other country. Its known as hong kong shanghai bank corp.

    Standard chartered another largest bristh bank was also created in China.

    and countless more.

    British Petroluem stole and create wars in the middle east and got their share of the oil supplies due British empire stealing from other people. Now they changed to BP.

    The Swire Group whichowns half of hong kong were a recipents of the bristish empire and government assistance

    So which national mighty corp did not start out with government support and affiliations? TELSTRA?? IBM?? GM?? Holden?, BOEING>>>?? General Mcdouglas???

    London Nationa Museum has the treasures of the world. It is the same in Paris at Lvoure. These national treasures of other coutries were paid by the british and french? THEY were stolen.

    Dont talk about history and ignorances …

    • Hi Sinner,

      just because you have not heard about the Indo-China war of 1962 with China as the aggressor. The Korean war, with North Korea vs South (China fought with the North and Killed Aussies and Greeks). Lastly China invaded Vietnam in February 17, 1979, to March 16, 1979. China was supporting the Khmer Rouge. Nice guys…

      China still occupies Tibet.

      Clearly one of your sins, is ignorance of history. Another is being a mouth piece of a tyranny. Nice guy….


  14. Huawei shld take the gov to court for defamation.

    They are a registered company in Australia. They hv not broken and rules nor laws. They hv Tender for any NBN PROJECTS.

    AUST GOV has assassinated them for spying. Well where’s the evidences ? If not the gov is defaming huawei. Their loss of reputation and image and financial losses.

    Can you take government to court for defamation ?? Maybe not cos it’s under the national security act or maybe they come up with another act.

    • I don’t think companies can be defamed per se, but I am sure there would be some legal angle for Huawei if they chose that path. I think, however, that they are taking a more diplomatic approach for now — Jeremy Mitchell’s interview on Sky News this morning was nothing if not conciliatory. I think they are taking the approach that they never had a chance with NBN Co due to the sensationalism around these issues, and this kind of problem will eventually go away for them om the long term. In fact, it demonstratably already is. They count almost every major Australian telco — and almost every other major international telco as well — on their customer list already. Clearly the Federal Government is an extreme outlier in its attitude towards Huawei, and that fact will be made clear over the years. Chinese companies are often fairly patient like this — which may perhaps come from their millennia of civilisation ;)

  15. Yes it seems like they are taking the diomatic approach. This old reason and spy and hacking is just plain political propaganda extremist.

    Dick Cheney the former vice president of the USA and his company is acting as a consultant for huawei in the USA.

    And like I mentioned sooner or later the NBN will be farmed off to the telcos in Australia. And which telco in Australia are not sitting on huawei eqipments. ?? If not now they be later.

    So what’s the difference. If you are using Vodafone or even Telstra now beware !!! It’s being spied. Next time u sit on the toilet bowl beware there is a bug under the rim. 99 percent of toilet are made in china.

    • Dick Cheney? He’s already sold out his country to corporate interests before (as Vice President), so it shouldn’t be too much trouble for him to do it again.

  16. We have a truck load of government spooks. They may be your average oxymoron (intelligence and spooks, and all that), I suspect however they are in a better position to make this judgement than us.

      • Then couldn’t Huawei also explain their lack of ability to explain these claims then? Denying is obviously not enough since the claims been around for awhile.

  17. The Attorney-General is responsible for ASIO. So whatever their reason we’ll probably never know, other than it being related to “national security”.

  18. Has anyone considered that this is just a not too subtle message to the chinese government? “Hacking us hurts your economy so stop it”

  19. What are your choices?

    Huawei are of course controlled by the Chinese government (known for their brute-force network attacks and occasional success such as their google break-in). Another choice might be to buy Israeli technology (e.g. Gilat or Narus) but don’t I remember just recently Australian passports being forged by Israeli spies in order to carry out an assassination? Then again, we could go to the good old USA (the people who put a backdoor into Crypto AG which was sold to a whole bunch of governments around the world, then when that got discovered they tried it on with the “clipper chip” which had proven backdoors a mile wide).

    Hmmm, well surely we could trust France? I mean it’s not like they sent agents over to blow up the Rainbow Warrior or anything. Oh err, actually they did… and got away with it too. Crap.

    I’m clean out of ideas here. Suggestions? Maybe we should strictly only buy comms equipment from Tuvalu.

  20. Read Lt. Col. William Hagested’s book “21st Century Chinese Cyberwarfare” and think again about the risks that Huawei (and other Chinese vendors) represent.

    Also – those supporting Huawei – take a really good look at their solution development history. They have a long heritage of pirating others intellectual property – all with Chinese Government support or at the very least, a blind eye…

    This decision has NOT be undertaken lightly and has been very well researched and considered…

    • Hey “Insider”,

      pirating intellectual property does not equal cyber-espionage, and just because a company is based in China, doesn’t mean it is an explicit agent for the Chinese Government.

      Again, I say, if you have some evidence of Huawei’s involvement in such things as backdoors in routers, present it. Delimiter is a site based on evidence — not conspiracy theories and speculation.


  21. The stakes for NBN Co to provide network security are much higher than any other Australian telcos who only have to answer to the board and/or shareholders.

    People going down the tangent of if not China, do you trust US, France? etc.. This is the wrong question because you shouldn’t fully trust any government, but you can assess risk based on the openness of the government and its historical track record.

    The last thing NBN Co need in their network implementation is the question about potential back doors because of Chinese equipment being used and despite how much source code Huawei provide, you will probably never satisfy the doubt it would create.

    Sidenote: The iPad/iPhone comparison isn’t a very good one because only the hardware is produced in China and the IOS software is coded/developed in California. Unless you are implying some form of tampering could occur in the manufacturing line and pre loading unauthorised software you’re starting to stretch the analogy. I’m not saying the comparison doesn’t have metrit, but I think there is a difference between an American owned company outsourcing its manufacturing and assembly vs dealing with a Chinese company. Also Apple is only developing client devices which people can easily choose to use or not use vs core networking hardware where the client doesn’t have much choice in the matter, which again takes you off the track of the point trying to be made…

    • The stakes for NBN Co to provide network security are much higher than any other Australian telcos who only have to answer to the board and/or shareholders.

      Repeating what I said above ..

      The NBN is a last mile service, it hands off at the POI to the SP. It is all well and good to say that NBN Co needs to provide all this network security etc, but what difference does it make when the exact same information that is traveling over the NBN is going to travel over a SP, many of which are using Huawei equipment.

      If the government had serious concerns they would outright ban any SP/telco in the country from using Huawei equipment, as they haven’t done that the security of information argument is completely mute.

      • People/Companies/Telcos can use Huawei equipement if they want, I’m just saying NBN CO/government will be liable for the decision they make. Resulting in a more scrutinising tender process than other parties would go through.

          • NBN Co/Australian Government will be liable… responsible…. accountable… for any decisions they make.

            I don’t know why you keep obfuscating my point of view.

        • I’m pretty confident the Defence Department traffic that is carried by Optus needs to be secure (Defence uses Optus satellites and transmission), and we all know Optus use Huawei.

          Are you implying that Defence haven’t done their research correctly and have themselves exposed?

    • Graeme,

      if you have some evidence that Huawei has broken a law or is involved in some form of cyber-espionage, then please present it — otherwise your argument is baseless and is violating the principle of treating someone as innocent until proven guilty.


          • If they don’t meet the requirements of NBN Co/Australian Government they don’t quality to tender, is this a open, invited or restricted tender?

            More details of the tendering process need to be revelled.. The insistance that Huawei need to be proved of doing something illegal/wrong to be restricted from tendering process is complete folly.

            As I said in my first post its about assessing the risks, if the government has concerns they should be reviewed, ultimately it could down to the level of trust. (or lack of)

          • Remember that Chinese spooks were rumored to be behind the hacking of the PMs, Defence Minister and Foreign Affairs Ministers computers?

            I suspect DSD may have a strong opinion on these matters

  22. The point here is:

    Forget about the spy, hacking, china putting bugs in every sockets and clothing and tea cups and detergent and shoes and etc you buy from the market or shops or web sites.

    1. Huawei has not tendered for NBN projects/contracts.

    How can a person can be prosecuted if he/she has not broken into you house?

    Please explain that?

    The government banned Huawei from NBN when they havent even tendered for NBN projects and stated that hauwei is a security risk? You are defaming a company.

    That is the point of argument. Innocent before proven guilty. I thought australia/usa/western democrazy is the champion of this?

    Or it is just bullshit. if its not in USA and australia interests its guilty before innocent.

    Finally if huawei is an extended arm of the chinese government and the government is accusing hauwei of hacking and spying, it means the givernment is accusing ‘china’ or chinese government of spying and hacking. So we will not do business with CRIMINALS.

    But BHP, Rio tinto, FMG and all the major, minor coal companies are doing deals with Criminals? Australian gvernment is using these compaines taxes to finance ‘australian’ and guess what the NBN project ?????

    So australia is living off criminal monies?


  23. I for one believe the government has made the right move here, to protect Australia in every way it can is of the highest importance to this country for a nation network of this size. The NBN cannot be be jeopardised in anyway, no matter whether you ‘believe’ Huawei to be a risk or not, if it’s associated to the Chinese government, with their past reputation, it is a risk, full stop.

  24. I do not understand why people would be backing Huawei in this. The whole issue isn’t that they have done something wrong it is because they can’t be trusted. Which is a decision for the government to make on advice the government has which would of come from intelligence gathered by America. China’s links to industrial espionage have been shown, why would you risk this when you can get superior product from a friendly country rather then reverse engineered technologies.

    • “The whole issue isn’t that they have done something wrong it is because they can’t be trusted.”

      Yet 45 out of the top 50 global telcos (including Optus and Vodafone Australia) use Huawei equipment in their networks. Seems like an awful lot of customers for a company which “can’t be trusted”.

      • I think the difference is that the Government will be expected (and rightly so) to use the NBN for their needs. It is one thing for a private company to conduct their risk assessments and make decisions based on them, it is unreasonable to think that a sovereign government should or would come to the same decision.

        I am not passing judgement on whether this is an over-reaction and disproportionate response (that is my default position with most governments and in particular this one).

        Interestingly enough I think this is a significant enough issue whomever the vendor is, whether it be Cisco or Alcatel. I guess the thinking is half our military hardware is supplied by USA vendors so core network equipment is not much of an incremental risk. (I think information is more important than bullets and planes though)

    • Accepting a tender usually creates an obligation by the company to seriously consider as a commercial bid. After all, the tenderer would have spent time and money on creating the bid.

  25. I am kind of torn on this one.

    Firstly, I dont think that the government should be intruding on technical aspects of the NBN,

    However, I am suspicious of any company that has direct links to any national government, and particularly to one that is as authoritative and non-transparent as the Chinese government.

    The reason for this is that companies, in general, are mandated to act in the best interests of their shareholders. For normal companies, this is to the general public or to private investors, who can be relied up on to act for the betterment of these peoples finances. This makes the predictable, and generally politically safe. When governments are involved, this dynamic changes. For domestic companies, the government influence means that the company may be able to take on social, and less capitalistic, endeavors which is all great because there is no question of trust. A government can usually be required to act in the best interests of its citizens (note that even here the Chinese government can be questioned). However, for a government working in a foreign company, they have no obligation whatsoever to the destination, they only have to act in the interests in their own citizens.

    I do not believe that the argument that Huawei should have broken laws before being banned should hold water (please note that I used the word ‘should’). An organisation should be able to, at their discretion, buy what they want, from whom they want.

    The suspicion of ulterior motives by a government organisation should be able to be acted upon. This is what diplomacy is all about.

  26. What a pack of naive noobies! (Apart from the few here with a brain).

    The NBN is a SITTING DUCK for the installation of backdoors, to funnel anything of commercial or national security interest to China. The most valuable intelligence is probably normal trade dealings between companies, and the transfer of intellectual property by email. This would give Chinese companies an immediate advantage in copying our products, beating us to market, undercutting our prices, and thrashing us in the marketplace (even more so than now).

    Then there’s the opportunity to tap telephone conversations, perform traffic analysis to find out who’s doing what, and do a whole lot of other sinister things.

    In order to verify that back doors have not been installed, our experts would have to reverse engineer the software and hardware of every major item down to gate level – an extraordinarily difficult and time consuming process. They would also have to anticipate all possible states, which might potentially switch on a hidden back door. They would have to have a system which guarantees that all current and future items are made to the same build standard, to ensure that a compromised unit is not quietly slipped into the supply chain.

    Does anyone remember all the palava over poker machine integrity, way back? This would be ten times worse.

    My humble advice is to quit complaining, and let the experts get on and do their job.

  27. They’ve been awarded the contract to build the new Train Radio Network for RailCorp based on GSM-R with the first towers going up earlier this year

  28. Are you for real people, China is well known for hacking into networks around the world to obtain sensitive information. Only a complete idiot would accept Huawei’s tender. enough said.

    • “Only a complete idiot would accept Huawei’s tender.”

      You mean a complete idiot such as Vodafone or Optus, which use Huawei extensively in their networks, or BT in the UK?

      • @ Renai LeMay

        So because Voda & Optus use them, that makes it ok? you have got to be kidding right?

        • Well, is there something that the Government knows about Huawei that Optus and Vodafone don’t? As others here have pointed out, Optus supplies the Department of Defence with satellite services. You would think Defence wouldn’t want to use Huawei gear if there was a legitimate concern.

          Overall, I maintain my stance on this matter. If you have evidence that Huawei has embedded backdoors into its equipment, then present it.

          • It’s all good and well to ask the everage punter for evidence, but of course they/we don’t have any evidence.

            If that’s the criteria required then it’s pointless commenting.

            What it boils down to is the Australian governmnet either have evidence or are unfairly discriminating against Huawei.

          • Nobody (the Australian Government or anyone else) has presented any evidence regarding Huawei so far. That is the issue here in this debate. If the Government has evidence, it should present it so that other organisations can have confidence in their dealings with Huawei. If it doesn’t, then there are no grounds for it to block Huawei from participating in NBN contracts.

            It’s as simple as that.

          • They don’t need evidence when many have ‘suspicions’ about an organisation such as Huawei, it’s called eliminating risk. Unless you work for Huawei I don’t know why you would be so concerned for their business case on this front.

          • The problem with the “prove me wrong” argument, Renai, is that it presumes you are right to begin with. :)

            That’s not always going to be the case if all the facts aren’t on the table. It’s a government controlled project, so not all facts will be. Which means there’s a gap in knowledge.

            It’s ok to want to know what that is but one cannot have the presumption that there isn’t any simply because it’s not disclosed.

            Governments redact sh*t all the time. And protect some lines of information. You would know that just as well as anyone else. That doesn’t mean it’s simply not there (sometimes, it might not be, granted).

          • “you are right to begin with”

            No, in this case it’s not my personal opinion the Government is contradicting ;) It’s the opinions of 45 out of the world’s 50 largest telcos, who have no problem with using Huawei gear. The case *for* Huawei is so overwhelmingly huge at this point, compared to the case *against* Huawei, that the Government would need to present some pretty strong evidence to beat that case.

            You see, I am not proving anything. I am merely pointing out current trends in the telecommunications landscape, which are overwhelmingly globally *for* Huawei.

          • “The case *for* Huawei is so overwhelmingly huge at this point, compared to the case *against* Huawei, that the Government would need to present some pretty strong evidence to beat that case.”

            Sure. However the government will have a reason. It might be a ridiculously paranoid, and based on horribly circumstantial claims, but there will still be one. :)

            As much as they seem to make crap up as they go along, the policies and contracts and such are never far behind government decisions (unlike the opposition, whom can say whatever the hell they like, governments have red tape to produce).

            Like I said, Huawei should really be a part of the tender, the government and NBNco can still choose to not accept any bid, for whatever reason.

            I’m inclined to think there’s a back-story here. Be fascinating to see what all the hub-bub is about.

          • Well, I’m planning to file some Freedom of Information requests on this this afternoon. Maybe that will turn up some of the back story ;) (although I doubt it)

  29. The government is not keen on a Chinese supplier providing hardware for the NBN, as China, and former soviet states are still the source of a large percentage, and prolonged series of attacks.

    There might be a little bit of Communist flutter, but it comes down to where risk vectors are. US is a threat, sure, but they tend to be very loud and obnoxious when attacking something. The ‘Kath & Kim’ of the assault force world; it’s seldom ever a secret.

    China continues to run what appears to be a very concerted effort – you can’t really do that and not have a government notice at some point; the lack of change in that department is a little bit damning.

    There are a number of vendors left, thus there should be a pretty hotly contested set of tenders in future. The notion that a vendor can ‘gouge’ here probably massively undersells the effort the NBNco is putting in.

    They are not complete morons, despite what people might think of the government.

    Huawei is quite likely very keen to keep itself clear of any business risk; clearly, it’s managed to remain isolated otherwise it’d have not got this far, however, as open as China has become, it’s still a communist country, which means it is at risk of government interference; that’s what will make the securty types nervous.

    I’d prefer to see Huawei compete, if for no other reason than to ensure a well rounded tender, but it’s the federal government that is in charge of policy; so they call the shots.

    • you are right. They are not keen because they are pressured by the US.
      Nothing to do with evidences cos there are none against huawei.

      It’s about politics and it’s about against china. All these so call evidences of this and that about hacking all comes from US.

      Last year or before there was a case in France about their STATE OWN CAR COMPANY AND THE CHINESE STEALing THEIR COMPANY secrets and the whole press was against china and shouldn’t deal with china etc. well it ended up with the government apologizing to china as the investigation led to their own company employees doing the dirty work for their own Benefits.

      Cases for evidences and governments. Well let’s put it this way. US AND THEIR ALLIES went to war in Iraq and still at war in Afghanistan after 10 years dued to evidences or was it MANUPULATED EVIDENCES by the American ?

      American view china as their biggest threat in terms of almost everything. Whether china engages in or not engages in anything such as hacking.

      High end tech is the only thing left for American dominance of the world. The
      Minute another nation reaches that equal footing the us dominance will be sliding further from what they have the last few years.

      They put a muppet like Obama in office to give the impression tO the world the leopard changed it’s skin.

      A black man with four years of local politics in America can become president. When an amerIcan presidential run cost a cool $1 billion. An American dream. Only can happen in America. Only a fool would believe.
      You graduated from University and after four years at Telstra working your arses off you became CEO.

      Anyway that is off topic but tO give petespectove to your post.

      NBN will be connected to us bases that will be lined up in darwin and whatever the Aust gov will do a deal with the American later. Time will tell.

      If government wAS serious about managing risk they should hv let hauwei tender for projects. Now they hv diPlomatic risks and ecOnocic risks

      After all the tenders are in they can reject on whatever grounds they can make it up.

      But let’s assume first huawei tendered.

  30. I don’t think you’re going to get any more information from the government on this one.

    The government obviously has it’s sources who have warned about Huawei. These sources are too important to quote or cite or even give any information about, otherwise they will no longer be sources.

    The government is well within it’s right as a sovereign entity to do whatever it wants with taxpayer’s money, as long as there is sufficient justification to the people of Australia. In many cases, it is obvious the government will not seek the people’s opinion if seeking said opinion will disclose a vital source or intelligence gathering method.

    This is why no Australian Government ever comments on intelligence matters.

    Obviously, this could all just be a method of lining someone elses pockets by ensuring the tender process only involves the highest-price vendors, but given the lack of evidence for this supposition, I tend to believe that our governmental officials are being honest in this respect.

  31. This is surely actually about sending a message to China that it needs to get its house in order and stop the the ridiculous number of cyber attacks on foreign coporates and governments that come from inside its borders.

    • how is australia sending a message to china? NBN is built on the money from the resource boom. How did the resource ‘boom’ come/came about?

      Whatever the governments project for the net 50/100 years will come from resource boom. Hence you got the resource tax just passed by the government.

      australia didnt have to go through the financial crisis due to china. How is australia sending a message to china?

      australia for the next 50-100 years will depend on china and india and asia to keep its standard of living whether its a labor government or liberal or national or green or whatever …

      the bucks stop right here.

      NBN cannot be hacked and infiltrated if its built by us companies? french companies? NASA gets hit and infiltrated everyday if you believe the us government. and its coming from China/Russia. Nasa the creame of the creame technologies.

  32. I wonder if this is just a simple case of a corrupt tender. Let’s imagine for a second that NBN Co. has already chosen a supplier in secret. Maybe for kickbacks, maybe for quid-pro-quo, maybe conflict of interest, maybe (probably) US pressure, maybe because the gov’t wants to install its own backdoors. It could be any reason.

    What would happen if Huawei came along and undercut the preferred supplier by 30% or more? It would mean they would have to strongly justify not choosing Huawei. By banning them outright Huawei has no chance to make a bid so the people ultimately paying for the equipment can’t make an informed assessment of the winning tender.

    China is not the only country involved in industrial espionage (just ask Iran). It’s just not appropriate to assume that they would sell trojaned equipment by default or that their equipment is any more or less trojaned than other suppliers. Either way I agree with the sentiment that if the Government knows of an actual exploit it should issue an appropriate security advisory specifying the specific threat.

    If Huawei can sell phones to the public then either the Government doesn’t see them as a threat or they somehow feel that information leakage from mobile equipment is somehow less important than leakage from backbone equipment. A lot of important data is stored on phones and none of it is encrypted.

    • “I wonder if this is just a simple case of a corrupt tender. Let’s imagine for a second that NBN Co. has already chosen a supplier in secret. Maybe for kickbacks, maybe for quid-pro-quo, maybe conflict of interest, maybe (probably) US pressure, maybe because the gov’t wants to install its own backdoors. It could be any reason.

      As the exalted leader says Shannon, “Have you got any evidence”? If not, your argument is just as invalid as any suggesting impropriety from Huawei”.

      • I said “I wonder” and “let’s imagine”. I’m not making an argument or stating any facts, I’m just proposing several theories that would match the behaviour we’re seeing. It’s common practice for tender applications to be rejected but not to be refused upfront (especially when they haven’t even been offered) so there must be hidden factors and I’ve speculated on several possibilities, nothing more.

      • To put it another way; A guy runs down the street naked streaming about chickens. Doesn’t take a medical certificate to speculate he’s probably nuts.

  33. Renai LeMay
    Posted 26/03/2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink |
    Well, I’m planning to file some Freedom of Information requests on this this afternoon. Maybe that will turn up some of the back story ;) (although I doubt it)

    I want to know and demand the government to tell me as huawei is black-listed as a threat and as a criminal as they have been banned from the tender process then why are they allowed to operate in australia. And why are vodafone and optus being allowed to used huawei hardware and softwares in the country.

    i am with vodafone so if huawei is a secruity risk then i am at risk. The government has the obligation to tell me and if they deem huawei as a risk then you shut them down completely.

    So what is it? Why is the government not shutting down hauwei operation in austalia????????

  34. I’m just amazed at the people who are willing to give Huwei the ‘benefit of the doubt’, ‘innocent until proven guilty’ treatment, especially those that may not even be Chinese nationalist ! Their argument is “where is the evidence” ?. This is reasonable question, provided you ignore other observations …

    There may be no hard evidence BUT

    – given Huwei’s questionable reputation, especially regarding security (check it up on Wikpediai)
    – given it’s connection to the Chinese government
    – given all the allegation of Chinese hacking in general
    – given Chinese mentality when dealing with politics/war/business (for a good idea, read the “Three Kingdoms”)
    – (whatever else I’m missing)

    you’d be foolish to give them the green light. It’s basic conditional probability, where in this case the P(trustworthy | what we know) is very low. It’s all about trust.

    Here are some fun facts. Huwei’s board of director includes the following aussies:
    – Admiral John Lord
    – Alexander Downer
    – John Brumby

    And the question why Optus uses Huwei equipment, well a quick Wikipedia check will tell you that it’s a a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Telecommunications. Connect the dots and go figure.

  35. It’s nutty to think you’re going to file an FIO application and they are going to have to reveal all to you. That is so naive. I’m rolling on the floor laughing. You’ve obviously had no dealings with ASIO. They’ll say sorry mate, national security, bugger off.

    It’s hilarious you’re defending the right of the Chinese Government to be “innocent until proven guilty”. Millions of ordinary Chinese are singing, “We should be so lucky”. We may trade with China but politically it’s still a hostile government. Nobody has to prove a damn thing. Nobody has to tell you a damn thing.

    A national security organisation receives a tip off of a potential terrorist attack… no wait, what about the evidence, do you have real evidence? You know, you’re defaming these poor people. They’re innocent until proven guilty. Besides, they do make the best falafels. So we’ll have to wait till the bomb goes off… Have a nice day.

    Think. We make truckloads out of the Chinese. They make truckloads out of us. Why would our government suddenly decide to not be all nicey-nicey and annoy the crap out of their government. If you think they’re doing that lightly, then you’re the one with the tin foil hat.

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