Wed, Oct 30, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Australia says its broadband ban on Huawei to remain

AFP, SYDNEY

Australia’s new government yesterday said Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co (華為) will remain shut out of bidding to build Australia’s national broadband network, on advice from security agencies.

The previous Labor government last year banned Huawei from helping build infrastructure for the National Broadband Network (NBN) on “strong advice” from intelligence operatives. Huawei criticized the decision and denied it posed a security risk.

However, Australian Attorney-General George Brandis said the new conservative government of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, which took power after winning Sept. 7 national elections, had no plans to relax this stance.

“The decision of the previous government not to permit Huawei to tender for the NBN was made on advice from the national security agencies,” Brandis said in e-mailed comments.

“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,” he said.

Brandis said the government would not comment on advice from the agencies.

The new government has announced a strategic review of the NBN in hopes of cutting its cost to A$29.5 billion (US$28 billion). Huawei is hoping for a change of stance in the wake of the review.

“Huawei understands no decisions have been made by the government regarding the NBN, pending outcomes of the strategic review,” a spokesman for the company said.

Brandis’ comments come after Huawei, a leading global information and communications technology provider, mounted an intense lobbying campaign in Canberra for the ban to be lifted, the Australian Financial Review reported.

The business newspaper said Brandis had overruled a push by some colleagues within the government to relax the ban on Huawei.

However, the paper said other Cabinet members were against changing the previous government’s policy and had expressed concerns that granting Huawei the ability to bid could be seen as a problem by the US.

Washington has previously raised concerns that Huawei’s alleged ties to the Chinese state could see telecoms equipment it supplied being used for spying and cyberattacks.

The company denies it has any direct links to the Chinese state, but the US Congress last year called for its exclusion from US government contracts. Huawei has accused Washington of protectionism.

The Australian Financial Review said it was not clear whether the Chinese company would be excluded from bidding for less sensitive equipment for the NBN.

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