Huawei espionage claims “completely absurd”: Downer


in brief Former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has reportedly described claims that Chinese networking vendor Huawei has links to cyber-espionage from its home country as “completely absurd”, in the wake of news that the company has been banned from participating in National Broadband Network contracts for such involvement.

The news of Huawei’s ban broke over the weekend, representing 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.

In an article this morning, the ABC noted that its 7:30 Report show had been investigating the issue for several weeks and would broadcast a program on it tonight. In the show, Downer, who now sites on Huawei Australia’s board along with former Victorian Premier John Brumby, reportedly says:

“This whole concept of Huawei being involved in cyber warfare – presumably that would be based on the fact the company comes from China. This is just completely absurd.”

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.

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.

Image credit: Adam Carr, public domain


  1. I couldn’t agree with Downer more.

    Ever heard of “Reds Under the Bed’ ? Seems that the Country is going backwards at an astonishing rate. We should hit 1901 fairly shortly :-)

    I wonder what is next? Banning Great Wall motor vehicles equipped with GPS devices?

    I suppose we will have to wait and see who our bestest good friends in the USA tell us we should distrust.

  2. Remember when some said that finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was “completely absurd”? Well we went to war with Iraq anyway. So in the case of Huawei I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry…

      • There was apparently plenty of WMD in Iraq when the Western military ‘visited’ in 1991 – mostly blown up – but nothing in the last visit in 2003 (except stuff that was abandoned in 1991 – noone wanted to go near it).

        Plenty of documented examples on Iraq using WMD style stuff on their own populace up to a decade before 1991.

        • So a decade before we went to war with them, Iraq had some dodgy weapons, but when we actually went in they had none. I think my point has been made here :)

      • Of course we didn’t and WMDs are more serious matter so you’d think someone like Downer would ask for conclusive evidence before supporting the claim that WMDs would be found in Iraq instead of just accepting it without question… now he’s saying the Huawei espionage claims are absurd? That may very well be true but since when do we (Australia) need actual evidence for any claims made and since when do we need proof of anything to take a course of action?

        • “since when do we need proof of anything to take a course of action?”

          A rational mind should always act on evidence. I cannot accept anything less.

  3. Interestuing that part of the NBN critiquing coming from the Coalition, especially Malcolm Turnbull, has centered around the NBN being a communist/Chinese/North Korean inspired network.

    But the first to jump to Huawei’s defence is former Liberal leader Alexander Downer!

    It must be role reversal day.

  4. If they were allowed to be NBN Co suppliers with no issue raised by the government, Liberal figures would be doing the scare tactics instead. You can’t take their position seriously on anything.

  5. Why is it the attorney general’s department going out of their way to be so cloak and dagger about things which matter so much in the public domain.

    Case 1: ACTA talks
    Ex – attorney general Robert McClellan’s department goes out of its way to negotiate the pact in private and now the talks between ISP and right holders are also private.

    Case 2: NBN Huawei case
    Huawei not allowed to bid no reason currently given and no evidence provided.

    You know this kinda reminds me of the US Army with problems of the M4 / M-16’s. Though problems with the assault rifle were well known, the government would continue to procure Colt’s contract for more of the weapons… There were cheaper and better alternatives as demonstrated with the XM-8; HK-416 and SCAR-L but the government insisted that the contract went to Colt…. no official reasoning.

    Renay do you know if the other competitors are offering any sort of kick-backs for their bids?

  6. Downer has form at being able to ignore things happening under his nose. The AWB oil-for-wheat thing happened on his watch, and he apparently didn’t see a thing.

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