Huawei Australia chairperson John Lord has said that he “doesn’t believe there’s any truth” in reports that the Chinese company has been blocked in participating in the roll out of Australia’s 5G networks.
The company has not been advised that it is barred from participating and is “still talking openly with government and passing information both ways” in an effort to address concerns about Huawei’s participation.
“As late as last night I was briefed that our senior team had been down talking to the Critical Infrastructure Centre only yesterday talking about cyber security and 5G,” Lord told ABC Radio.
The Australian Financial Review this morning reported that due to “national security concerns” Huawei is “all but certain” to be barred from participating in the roll out of 5G.
The government yesterday announced it would step in and fund the construction of submarine cables to connect to the Solomon Islands, blocking another Huawei subsidiary.
Huawei in 2012 was barred from participating in the roll out of the National Broadband Network. That ban survived the 2013 change of government.
Attorney-General Christian Porter indicated that no decision has been made on the question of Huawei and 5G.
“There’s a process in place and there is an ability to exclude an organisation or organisations from taking part in that process on national security grounds,” Porter this morning told ABC Radio.
There are two pieces of legislation that allow the government to step in and bar companies that operate critical infrastructure from purchasing equipment or services from particular suppliers: The Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018 and the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2017, which implemented the government’s Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms (TSSR).
Porter claimed that it was “too early to say” whether a particular company may be banned from selling 5G equipment to Australia’s telcos.
“There’s a process which is very orderly which relies on the government seeking a range of detailed advice about a range of organisations that have indicated a desire to be involved in the tender process and we weigh that advice and make a decision in due course,” the attorney-general said.
That process is “being undertaken in a robust, diligent way” and “it’s just too early to make statements about how that process is going to conclude,” he added.
“I think most Australians would accept a logical and common sense process that when you’re building critical infrastructure and particularly in the modern age telecommunications and IT infrastructure that you do so in a way that takes into account national security concerns,” Porter said.
The first 5G services are expected to launch in 2019.
Government-backed research has predicted that the next generation of wireless technology will deliver a significant economic boost to Australia.