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Chinese firm's NBN ban not political: ASIO

Date

Ross Peake

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Security matters ... ASIO has hit back at claims Huawei was excluded from the NBN for political reasons.

Security matters ... ASIO has hit back at claims Huawei was excluded from the NBN for political reasons. Photo: Reuters

ASIO has hit back against claims that Chinese company Huawei, the Raiders' sponsor, was excluded from the national broadband network for political reasons.

The spy agency's head, David Irvine, told Senate estimates ASIO's advice to the government was ''based solely on security matters''.

He said the agency was carefully monitoring international developments regarding the company.

He was questioned by Liberal Cory Bernardi on the security assessment that resulted in the federal government banning the Chinese telecommunications giant from participating in multi-billion dollar contracts for the NBN.

Recently the United States House intelligence committee warned against long term security risks in doing business with Huawei.

The Canadian government has also indicated it will exclude the company from construction of a secure communications network because of possible security risks.

During the estimates hearing late on Tuesday, Senator Bernardi said it was reported Huawei Canadian spokesman Scott Bradley had suggested Australia's decision to bar Huawei from supplying the NBN was made for political rather than security reasons.

''He suggested that Australia was trying to 'cosy up to the United States right now in terms of our trade relationship','' Senator Bernardi said.

''Likewise, when asked about the comments made by Australia and the US about the security threat posed by Huawei, their Australian director of corporate affairs, Jeremy Mitchell, last week tweeted that it's all politics.

''Can I ask, is there any truth to the suggestion ASIO's advice to the government was based on anything other than potential security implications?''

Mr Irvine replied: ''ASIO's advice to government on this and other matters is based solely on security matters.''

Mr Irvine said he had not read the full report from the US House intelligence committee.

Asked if ASIO would expect to have access to the classified version of the report, Mr Irvine said: ''I would not be able to answer that.''

He said he did not believe the formation of an Australian board for Huawei would necessarily impact on ASIO's consideration of the security issues.

Senator Bernardi said yesterday: ''Given the suggestions from Huawei spin doctors that ASIO had a political agenda rather than a security one, I think it's important for our peak security body to be able to put their views on the record, to respond to the claims that have been made.''

Former Howard government minister Alexander Downer, who is a director of Huawei Australia, said he had not seen or heard any evidence of wrongdoing or risk posed by Huawei. ''The US congressional committee has failed to provide any in its report,'' he wrote in a newspaper report yesterday.

''It is merely supposition that Chinese companies in the telecommunications area are some sort of a threat to security.''

Mr Downer said the committee's inquiry focused on two companies that are headquartered in China, Huawei and ZTE, but turned a blind eye to the other major companies that are manufacturing, assembling and programming in China.

''Does the committee really expect us to believe that if the Chinese government were inclined to put vulnerabilities into the telco infrastructure, they would use only Huawei or ZTE?'' he said. ''This is not a Dick Smith 'buy local' campaign.

''If they did pursue such methods, they could just as easily use Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco Systems, Ericsson or Nokia Siemens equipment as well.

''Alcatel-Lucent's main Asian manufacturing plant is only a few kilometres down the road from Huawei's Shanghai campus.

''In fact, Alcatel-Lucent's factory is a joint venture, half-owned by the Chinese government.

''If the risk is real and China is the source of that risk, as outlined in the US report and the blocking of Huawei from the Australian national broadband network, then do they truly expect us to believe that these factories and workplaces are somehow not vulnerable?''

Huawei has previously claimed Australia could be in breach of its international trade obligations if it banned the company, while it branded the US Congress report  "China bashing".

25 comments

  • Funny that the US company CISCO has never been investigated by ASIO nor is it revealed that the US through its worldwide signals interception system has access to all Australian telephone and public data streams...Not Political Hahaha

    Commenter
    mike
    Date and time
    October 18, 2012, 11:18AM
    • mike

      The USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada are all participants in the Echelon signals inteligence system.

      You are quite correct the system has access to Aussie telephony and data streams along with all the other participants. This is not in dispute, however, the data is captured regardless of the communications architecture underpinning it.

      Commenter
      Huh?
      Date and time
      October 18, 2012, 12:04PM
    • or that microsoft, google and apple sift through every piece of our data (including full access to our hard drives ) on a daily basis. 100% legally and they brag about it. That google has been quietly buying up DNA ancestory companies getting hold of peoples DNA. And apple ipad is now compulsory in every school in australia where they can track everything your children do with the full support of the government. samsung not allowed.
      be afraid.

      Commenter
      smilingjack
      Date and time
      October 18, 2012, 4:48PM
    • Gee, I suppose we are much better off with US equipment with - "possible" - embedded back-door access built into it to allow US security agencies first-dibs at the stuff rather than those Chinese doing the same thing.......

      Get real, it is "Political" in the sense that we only want our US "friends" to have (continuing) deep access into our infrastructure, not others.

      Commenter
      DC
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      October 19, 2012, 11:01AM
  • I work in IT Security in Australia. We are regularly briefed by Government agencies about the threats coming out of China.

    The Chinese Government and its agencies are the biggest thieves the world has every known.

    The Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) has a huge cyber warfare team who are tasked with stealing military and economic intelligence from the west. In particular, the USA, UK, Canada and Australia. Our mining companies, particularly, BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue are under constant cyber attack by Chinese actors.

    Huawei is deeply enmeshed with the PLA, the founder of Huawei is a former PLA officer and their is clear evidence that the R & D funding for the company came from the PLA.

    Huawei have stolen source code from Cisco (proven in court) and seek to reverse engineer any innovation that their western competitors develop.

    Australia, the USA and Canada are well served by our domestic security agencies and their advice to stay away from dealing with Huawei.

    I am very disappointed in Alexander Downer and thought he had more integrity.

    Commenter
    In our Best Interests
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    October 18, 2012, 11:56AM
    • and the USA are sitting home playing with puppies watching happy days? cant recall china invading anyone or dropping nuclear bombs on anyone. they have however saved out bums whilst we are being screwed sideways by the "free trade deal" lil john sucked us into with the USA.
      watched a doco yesterday where for usa employees its mandatory to allow access to your home pc. where your every move is tracked to target such things as whether you are pro rights, have gay friends, where you attend church and of course where you shop and your voting intentions.
      Republican supporting companies ordered staff to attend republican rallies at their own cost or be fired and are allowed to push a political agenda on staff.
      they brag about how good their tracking of staff is that they were able to tell a staff member was pregnant before she told her parents from monitoring her emails, social web sites and her movements via her iphone. we know the USA has hooked into our security cameras with the full support of our government.
      the usa where off duty police wearing their uniforms have been employed by petroleum companies as private security to harass the media and observers. forget china have a good look at the USA and be very afraid.

      Commenter
      smilingjack
      Date and time
      October 18, 2012, 5:03PM
    • As much as I agree with your point about the Chinese, I must warn you about our so-called "allies" counterparts. These guys are quite literally doing the same, only in a different and more subtle fashion. Unity is no longer present in this world, or rather it had never quite existed since we sort of realised our own intelligence.

      Everything has two sides, it is just a matter of how different the other side look.

      Commenter
      Pomato
      Date and time
      October 19, 2012, 9:43AM
    • There would be cyber attack even if Huawei never existed. Military intelligence and economic spying are carried out all over the world with a capable intel service, may it be legal or not. Don't tell me companies like Cisco, Microsoft, Apple have never engaged in IP disputes. Patents and copyrights are business assets, not a measure to determine moral value. You can apply the same logic to convict a kitchen knife vendor for its vicious intention to destroy the world by producing a lethal weapon.

      I'm a former Huawei employee, but I have no intention to defend this company. I do agree that's tech risk involved of its nature and by every right we can reject it if we choose, but infer a company's character based on the "big picture"? No. It bothers me someone bases his conviction on speculation of intention while branding himself a professional.

      Commenter
      dbi
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      October 19, 2012, 1:13PM
  • The cold war against China from western countries already began. But, Chinese are naive. They are still dreaming. Hope they will wake up one day.

    Commenter
    Ray
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    October 18, 2012, 12:30PM
    • How can the paid apologists for Huawei and ZTE keep a straight face. It's a HUGE risk - if you let these companies provide core assets and the chinese govt asks them to introduce a nefarious patch update, they will surely comply. The ASIO knows this and the US intel agencies know this, if it helps other suppliers as a result, oh well. "You can Trust Us" LOL

      Commenter
      Dirk
      Date and time
      October 18, 2012, 12:43PM

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