We’ve got to tell this Chinese telco: My way or the Huawei
The shadow minister for communications, Malcolm Turnbull, says he will “review” the decision by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy to ban the Chinese company Huawei from bidding for work on the National Broadband Network. This is an irresponsible position to take when western intelligence agencies strongly suspect that Huawei operates as an agent of the Chinese Communist regime.
Huawei claims to be a private company owned by its employees. In China, every enterprise with more than 50 employees must have a Communist Party cell, which has the legal power to “educate and supervise the company to ensure that it conducts its business lawfully and fulfils its social responsibilities.” This is particularly true in a “strategic sector” of the economy such as telecommunications.
Huawei as been officially described as a “national champion” in this field, which means that it is expected to act as an arm of the state to expand China’s role in the world telecoms industry. That’s why it has received up to US$30 billion in subsidies from China’s state controlled banks.
Huawei has close links to the Chinese military and intelligence services. Its founder, Ren Zhengfei, is a former military engineer. Its chairwoman, Sun Yafang, worked for the Communications Department of the Ministry of State Security before joining Huawei.
All this tells us that Huawei is a willing servant of the political, military and intelligence interests of the Chinese government and Communist Party. Associate Professor John Lee of the University of Sydney says: “Every large company operating in these strategic sectors is required to receive and implement political directives from the relevant ministries. In the case of telecommunications, the two most prominent would be the ministries of State Security and Commerce.”
The Ministry of State Security is the Chinese equivalent of the Soviet KGB. Would we have let a company controlled by the KGB install our national telephone system? Of course not. But that is what Mr Turnbull’s wish to “review” the government’s decision could lead to. His decision to “review” the Huawei ban is at odds with George Brandis, the Shadow Attourney General. Are the Coalition in turmoil? Is the China club of Turnbull, Julie Bishop and ex foreign Minister Alexander Downer trying to “wag the Coalition dog”?
The Coalition claims to support the US Alliance. But it is the government that is taking the same attitude to Huawei as President Obama’s administration, while Mr Turnbull wants to follow a hostile policy. Mr Turnbull’s fellow conservatives in the US Republican Party are even more adamant that allowing Huawei to buy into US telecoms companies would be a security risk. He should talk, as I have done, with Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, chair of the Congress’s Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
“I remain concerned about the national security threat posed by the potential expansion of Huawei into our telecommunications infrastructure,” Rogers said recently. “We must get to the bottom of these issues before they have further access to our market.”
The US has blocked several attempts by Huawei to buy into the US telecoms industry. The main reasons for this are:
• the company’s suspected involvement in China’s campaign of hacking and other forms of cyberwarfare against the US government and US companies
• the potential that Huawei products, once installed in a national telecoms system, could be used for both political and commercial espionage
• the fact that Huawei has supplied equipment to Iran in violation of UN sanctions, including equipment that can be used for political repression.
In the UK, Huawei has been allowed to invest in the British telecoms network, but only under the very close supervision of GCHQ, the UK’s signals intelligence agency. Britain of course has no direct equivalent of our NBN. The NBN will be the central spine of our national telecoms system, and the prime target of any hacking or cyberwarfare attack on Australia, whether its motive is commercial or political.
This is not a trade issue. Unlike Tony Abbott I support Chinese businesses rights to invest in Australia. I have no objection to foreign investment by China, nor does the Australian Government.
But this is a national security issue. It’s madness to allow such a vital and sensitive part of our national infrastructure to be open to the influence of a company with well-documented links to the intelligence services of an authoritarian foreign country. Mr Turnbull should stop listening to his old cronies in the telecoms industry and the banks, who just want to make more money, and start thinking about our national security.
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