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