blog Foreign Minister Bob Carr hit up the ABC’s flagship current affairs program 7:30 last night and was quizzed by host Chris Uhlmann on, among other things, the attitude of Chinese officials to the Federal Government’s move to block Chinese networking gear supplier Huawei from participating in National Broadband Network contracts. We recommend you check out the full transcript and video interview with Carr online here.
Carr has just left China following the kind of open and wide-ranging discussions with Australia’s major partners which new Foreign Ministers often embark upon (he’s now in Japan). The former NSW Premier had this to say about Chinese views on the Huawei ban:
“I think it’s indisputable that China is concerned about this and objects to the decision we made. My position with my Chinese interlocutors is that this decision was made on security grounds and that a government is entitled to make a decision on national broadband infrastructure based on the security and the resilience of that infrastructure. And that’s the position we made. I don’t think any other country in the world would have made a different decision in the circumstances. And I’d like to think that on the bottom line, after due consideration, the Chinese would accept this.”
To me it sounds as if China’s not going to forget this, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some repercussions for Australian companies attempting to operate in China. What we’re seeing here is concern being expressed about this highly unorthodox and controversial decision at the highest diplomatic levels which the two countries have access to. Huawei’s presence and dominance of the telecommunications field is only going to grow in Australia, and I anticipate that this issue will come up again and again for the Federal Government.
I also don’t quite think the branches of the Federal Government dealing with this issue (ASIO and the Attorney-General’s Department) really understand the commercial and technical dynamics of the telecommunications and networking hardware segments of the broader technology sector. But then, that’s no real surprise, given the form the Attorney-General’s Department has in the area.
Image credit: Screencap of 7:30 broadcast, believed to be covered under fair use