Please explain Huawei ban, Greens tell Labor


news The Greens have called on the Labor Federal Government to publicly disclose its reasons and associated evidence for blocking Chinese networking giant Huawei from tendering for National Broadband Network contracts, pointing out that the company has not been accused of breaking any laws.

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 a statement issued this afternoon, Greens Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam said the Government was right to be cautious on the issue, given the importance of the NBN to Australia, “but needs to make the case for the ban public”.

“Huawei has operated in Australia since 2004, but this is no ordinary tender; it is the most significant infrastructure project of our generation. It will be a crucial part of communications in Australia, with a vital role to play in commerce, education, the public health system, and all levels of civil administration,” said Ludlam. “The Government is prudent do all it can to protect the integrity of the NBN. While it is unlikely ASIO would issue a security warning for trivial reasons under these circumstances, the Government should explain the decision.”

“As Huawei has not been accused of breaking any Australian laws, the Government’s apparent intervention in NBN Co’s tendering processes raises questions that need answering. If the Government has evidence that there is a dangerously close relationship between Huawei and Beijing’s political and military interests – it should make that information public.”

Ludlam said it was unlikely the decision would have any significant diplomatic impact on Chinese-Australian relations, and framed alleged Chinese cyber-espionage efforts in general in the context of the cut and thrust of international affairs.

“Huawei is led by a former People’s Liberation Army engineer, and the Chinese government has been accused of intercepting confidential information in cyberspace by the United States Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive,” Ludlam said. “China is not alone in this regard; geo-strategically, it stands to reason the governments of nation states will do what they can to learn all they can about other nation states.”

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: David Howe, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported licence


  1. Since when has this government had to have a good reason to ban something? They do it all the time.

  2. You know, it is not complicated. This ban is a rebuke to China for its continuing program of cyber attacks on Western websites, particularly government and security-related locations. Simple as that. And because it does a perfect job of that, I support it.

  3. The Greens sound pretty immature if they think current national security issues should be exposed and discussed in public.

    It is inconceivable that government would take the serious step of proscribing a major company from our biggest trading partner without some very good reasons.

  4. I think you need a new stock image for Ludlam, you’ve used that one at least a dozen times.

    On a more relevant note, i don’t think its outside the power of the Government to ban this on suspicion grounds. I do, however, think the better way to go about it was the usual way in Australian business, “Sure.. I’ll interview you” … *but your not getting the job*.

  5. There is a simple reason for this and it goes to retaining ownership and control by Australia of Australian Infrastructure and resources. Foreign Ownership within Australia is welcomed but only to a point. Hence key domestic services such as the NBN need to be kept as much as possible under Australian control. In this area unless you are completely lily white no amount of campaigning, meetings with MP’s or other argument should work. Would you employ someone as a security officer if background checks indicate clouds of doubt over historically dubious rumours? Ok nothing proved in this companies case, and it may be just competitive sniping however unless you are lily white, forget even asking to be involved! Background checks are standard stuff for employees, contractors and companies now days.

  6. Symantec have announced the end of their joint venture with Huawei for security reasons due to tenders in place with the US Government relating to intelligence gathering. Maybe the Australian government is playing copy cat?

    Due to various classifications levels provided to sitting members of parliament, I am pretty sure Bob Brown would know the exact reason, but he is pulling a political shot by publicly asking the question.

    My guess is purely speculation. Maybe Huawei products have been reversed engineered, and someone has found something they do not like. That is only my guess, but many times my gut instincts have been vindicated.

  7. Does anyone find it ironic that the Greens (enemies of the business world in Australia) decide to find their voice in support of a foreign owned entity that may try to do or does…
    a) may not pay their “fair” share of tax in Australia
    b) may not adhere to Green principles in the way it manufactures in China
    c) may not adhere to union and Western labour conventions
    d) is a global business that Greens always rally against
    e) comes from a country with a poor human rights record
    etc etc…

    And finally – does anyone except the Greens expect the Governemnt to disclose high level intelligence that may have been sourced from the USA….

    • On the other hand, the Greens really are enemies of Australian business, so it makes perfect sense that they would support a firm from communist China. The “principles” are dispensable if it means furthering the cause.

  8. There’s been an extraordinary level of IT and internet espionage originating from China in recent years, if you look closely at what’s been reported. Major hacks on Google and top US companies, all public news. Although I realize it’s potentially sad for a company like Huawei that may actually have a clean slate, or not be consciously complicit, I understand the government’s caution and given that the technology we are introducing now may be foundational and inseparable from the NBN for many years, I think it’s wise.

    Perhaps unfortunate for Huawei, who could be completely innocent, who knows?

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