Australia’s media is swarming around the latest National Broadband Network (NBN) scandal, with the government confirming that Chinese vendor Huawei has been told not to submit tenders for the project.
The ban emerged in the Australian Financial Review, which reported that the company was given the bad news in December. The government has cited security concerns as the reason for the decision.
Huawei had devoted considerable effort over the last year to allay these concerns, including establishing an Australian board headed by former Howard government foreign minister Alexander Downer.
Downer told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that “the whole concept of Huawei being involved in cyber-warfare is based on the company being Chinese”, a notion he dismissed as “ridiculous”.
Although Huawei has been able to win national project business across the Tasman, it has so far been unable to convince the Australian government – presumably advised by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) – that its kit would not compromise Australia’s security.
According to the government, its decision is based on “a responsibility to protect the integrity of the NBN and the information created on it”.
Huawei Australia’s head of public affairs, Jeremy Mitchell, has dismissed the idea that the company’s kit could contain some kind of backdoor which it could conceal from its users. He told the ABC that the risk to the company would be far too great, saying that if a backdoor were found it would destroy the company “overnight”.
The story has itself become a story, with industry newsletter Communications Day stating that the Australian Financial Review came as the result of a leak from the government, as an attempt to pre-empt research from the ABC and The Australian. ®