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Chinese firm's NBN ban not political: ASIO

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''.

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

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 reportĀ  "China bashing".


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