Govt maintains Huawei ban for now



Modification: The focus of this article has changed since it was first published. Initially it stated that Attorney-General George Brandis had issued a statement stating that no decision has been made by the new Coalition Government with relation to the Chinese vendor’s ability to tender for National Broadband Network contracts. Currently available public evidence suggests this to be true. However, Delimiter also believes the Coalition Government as a whole has no immediate intention of changing the status quo with respect to Huawei.

news Attorney-General George Brandis has issued an inconclusive statement noting that no decision has been made by the new Coalition Government with relation to the Chinese vendor’s ability to tender for National Broadband Network contracts. However it is believed the Coalition Government is unlikely to change the status quo with respect to Huawei in the short term.

In March 2012, Labor Attorney-General Nicola Roxon confirmed her department had banned Chinese networking giant Huawei from participating in the multi-billion dollar National Broadband Network tendering process, citing national security grounds.

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.

In response to questions on the issue, in March 2012 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.

Since the ban was enacted, several senior Coalition figures, such as Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, have spent time with senior officials at Huawei and have openly stated that the new Coalition Government would review the ban. Just last week, Trade Minister Andrew Robb openly praised Huawei during a visit to Shanghai, stating the Chinese vendor had a “big future in Australia”.

This morning, the Financial Review newspaper used a quote from new Attorney-General George Brandis to state that Brandis had “overruled” a push by other senior Coalition ministers to remove the ban. The full statement reads:

“The decision of the previous Government not to permit Huawei to tender for the NBN was made on advice from the national security agencies. That decision was supported by the then Opposition after we received our own briefings from those agencies.

Since the election the new Government has had further briefings from the national security agencies. No decision has been made by the new Government to change the existing policy. As a matter of long-established practice the Government does not comment on advice from the national security agencies.”

It is unclear from Brandis’ statement whether the Government is still considering the Huawei issue. In addition, a spokesperson for the Attorney-General refused to clarify the statement. However, Delimiter believes that the new Coalition Government has no intention in the short to medium term of changing the Government’s stance on Huawei.

A Huawei spokesperson issued a separate statement stating it believed the decision was still up in the air. “Huawei understands no decisions have been made by the Government regarding the NBN, pending outcomes of the strategic review,” the company said.

I want to apologise to readers for not being able to give them more insight into this story. As is sometimes the case with stories of this nature, I know more than I am able to write. What I would emphasise about this story for readers’ understanding is that what you should take away from this issue is that the Coalition Government as a whole has no immediate intention of changing the situation with respect to Huawei. I believe the Coalition dynamic with respect to Huawei is quite complex, but I do not believe it is fluid, if those vague terms make any sense.

Image credit: Huawei


  1. I have a radical Idea maybe the government minister could talk to the media rather than releasing vague statements.

    I am already sick of the secrecy of this Government!

  2. The whole Turnbull policy allowing Huawei to re enter the supply of technology and equipment to the NBN was never a real policy. Turnbull and the coalition never had any intention of allowing Huawei to enter this market, it was just a smoke screen used to criticise Labor.
    Just another Turnbull pile of lies, I knew the day he first made the statements he liked Huawei it knew it was crock of shit.

    • That’s a good point. Suspicions are one thing, but we know the Americans are, or at the very least were, spying on us.

      • That’s less stupid than saying ‘the NSA spies, therefore the Chinese don’t’, but not by much.

  3. We know from Edward Snowden’s revelations that the US government applies pressure to US companies behind closed doors to allow it to tap into their communications equipment. It can’t do the same to a Chinese company. That, in reality, is why the security agencies consider Huawei equipment a “security threat”. Not because the Chinese are using it or could use it to spy, but because the US can’t.

  4. I’d love to read this security report on Huawei that these Attorney Generals are reading.

  5. Some of the facts being used are soft facts. In that the company was founded under the People Liberation Army (PLA) and its current management where senior PLA offers.

    And given the Communist Party governs party by opaque methods, it is difficult to determine what if any links Huawei has with the military arm (PLA) or the political arm (Communist Party). And the Chinese will not be rushing out to inform us if there is or not, because the Chinese will see this as “internal issue” and refuse to comment.

    To be fair, the use of secret orders and inability to comment on them is being used against companies like Cisco, and we do not know how much European companies like Lucient have been compromised by US or other intelligence agencies.

    However, there could be a pandering to the US on this issue. As I said, issue is murky

    • It’s now been documented that ambassadors of the United States “lean” on other governments to get favour for US companies. I have no doubt other sections of the US government and it’s various departments do the same.

      This thing with Huawei is one area where the US secrecy about it really does work against them. If there is a real, factual/provable, security issue with the company, they should just state it…

  6. Nah it is fine that the Americans can spy on everyone, tap into everyone submarine cables and phone lines. No big deal. So may I assume that the Australian government was aware of this and is still currently involved in the spying campaign?

  7. Wait I’m confused, so is the Australian Farce (AKA Financial) Review wrong or not as your article first stated? I mean their track record on the NBN was just ludicrous – as you pointed out the Minister slammed them for being so obviously wrong with the constatn stream of articles yelling the rollout stalled when it clearly hasn’t – so I reckon id be amazed if they got it right!!

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