One of Huawei Australia’s original independent directors, former Victorian premier John Brumby, has announced he will step down from the company’s board effective 1 March.
Brumby said that the timing of his decision was unrelated to criminal charges filed earlier this week by the US, which has accused Huawei of violating US sanctions on Iran. The US has also accused the world’s largest supplier of telecommunications equipment of stealing technology from T-Mobile US. Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is currently the subject of extradition proceedings brought by the US in Canada.
Brumby said that his decision was “unrelated to any recent commentary regarding china and Huawei” and that “no timing is ever perfect” for an announcement of this kind. “I didn’t want to hide this announcement,” he said.
He said that he had originally notified Huawei in late 2017 that he intended to step down, but the company asked him to stay on for another year.
Brumby on 29 March will take up the position of chancellor at La Trobe University.
Huawei Australia’s board was established in 2011.
Huawei has operated in Australia for a decade and a half. Although it has supplied equipment for 4G mobile services, the government last year notified Australian telcos that it would prohibit the use of Huawei equipment in the rollout of 5G services.
The government has indicated that the ban is related to national security concerns.
In a public statement on its decision, which doesn’t mention Huawei, the federal government said that it considered the “involvement of vendors who are likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government that conflict with Australian law, may risk failure by the carrier to adequately protect a 5G network from unauthorised access or interference.”
The Chinese national intelligence law requires all organisations to “support, cooperate with, and collaborate in national intelligence work, and guard the secrecy of national intelligence work they are aware of.”
However, Huawei Australia has argued that the law has “no legitimacy” outside China.
Late last month TPG announced that it would cease its rollout of a mobile network. The telco blamed its decision on the Huawei ban. The company has been using Huawei gear for its 4G rollout and claimed that the government’s decision had robbed it of an upgrade path to 5G.
That announcement, however, also came in the wake of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission expressing concerns that a planned merger between TPG and Vodafone Hutchison Australia may have negative effects on the telco market — including by removing the opportunity to have a fourth mobile network operator in the form of TPG.
Australia is not alone is banning Huawei from 5G networks: A number of other governments, including New Zealand, have implemented similar prohibitions.