Huawei admits Australians still mistrustful of the company

Huawei Australia chairman John Lord, has told a parliamentary hearing in Canberra that the company still has a long way to go to build its image in Australia.

Huawei has admitted it still has a long way to go to win over the Australian public and government’s trust.

Representatives from the company today appeared at a public hearing of the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security in Canberra, which is examining national security legislation.

John Lord, chairman of Huawei Australia, told the hearing the company made a conscious decision to improve its image in Australia after being advised from companies such as IBM on growing its brand in the country.

“We hadn’t gone out and told people about ourselves and built up the trust … in Australia we’ve been too quiet,” he said.

However, Lord conceded the company still has a long way to go.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do. You can’t just arrive on the scene and expect people to say ‘we trust you, we know you’,” he said.

Trust in the company has took a battering when the Australian Financial Review revealed it was banned from taking part in the National Broadband Network (NBN) in March this year due to federal government concerns over potential cyber threats from China.

While Malcolm Turnbull, Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband, recently stated he would reassess the ban if the Coalition were in power, the company is fighting hard to establish a positive image for itself.

This has included partly-funding trips for around half a dozen federal members of parliament to travel to China to visit Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzhen, China, Lord revealed today.

While Lord said Huawei had not funded trips for state premiers to visit the company’s headquarters, he stated most had visited the office.

“We have offered politicians … from many parties the chance to go to Huawei Technologies and we have had quite a few visits there and nearly every state premier has now been to Huawei Technology centre in Schenzen…” he said. “All the premiers have come there as part of trade delegations.”

David Wang, managing director of sales and business at Huawei Australia, told the hearing it was a source of frustration that most people in Australia had not heard of Huawei, despite having over 200 staff in the country.

"So we actively sent invitations not only to the politicians [to visit], but also to business leaders," he said. "...everyone who visited Huawei got a totally different impression of Huawei."

Huawei also recently released a white paper on cyber security, stating it would support and adopt any internationally agreed standard or best practice for cyber security and is a primary sponsor of the Canberra Raiders rugby league team.

The partly-funded political trips and football sponsorship is part of Huawei's 'localisation' strategy to further establish itself in the Australian market, which was spearheaded in 2011 when it established a local board of directors, including Lord, former premier of Victoria, John Brumby, and former foreign minister Alexander Downer.

Representatives from the company also appeared at the house intelligence committee in the US which is looking at whether Huawei and fellow Chinese company ZTE pose a risk to the US’ national security.

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