Chinese infrastructure vendor Huawei was told not to bid for any contracts relating to the Australian National Broadband Network (NBN) project, it has emerged. Local news agencies have reported that Huawei learned before Christmas last year that any efforts it made to win NBN contracts would be unsuccessful. The reports suggest that government concerns over security lie at the heart of the decision.
Answering questions on the topic while at an unrelated event in Seoul, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, said that the decision to exclude Huawei was “prudent”. While she didn’t refer to the Chinese vendor by name, she said that the Government was obliged to “do our utmost to protect [the NBN’s] integrity and that of the information carried on it.”
She continued: “The National Broadband Network is a huge infrastructure project and you would expect that as a government we would make all of the prudent decisions to make sure that that infrastructure project does what we want it to do, and we’ve taken one of those decisions.”
Huawei appeared sanguine, saying that it hoped to prove its suitability as a supplier to the project in future. In a statement, the firm’s local spokesman, Jeremy Mitchell said Huawei would strive to prove itself a reliable partner.
“As the world’s leading NBN provider Huawei remains hopeful of playing a role in Australia’s NBN, but ultimately that is a decision for the Australian Government and NBNCo,” he said. “While we’re obviously disappointed by the decision, Huawei will continue to be open and transparent and work to find ways of providing assurance around the security of our technology.”
Mitchell was slightly more outspoken in a radio interview on Monday morning, suggesting that anyone who believed Huawei a threat to security did not understand modern China.
Speaking on ABC’s daily current affairs radio show AM, he said: “If we were found to do one thing wrong, to have one back door in any of our equipment, our company would fold over night. There’s no way in the world that we would ever risk that… I think anyone who would argue that the Chinese government would ask us to do that shows a…lack of understanding of modern China.”
This is not the first time Huawei has found its path blocked by foreign governments with security concerns. Last year the firm was locked out of the tender process for the US nationwide emergency communications network, and banned from acquiring server firm 3Leaf. There have been similar situations in Taiwan and India, and Huawei’s offer to supply the infrastructure for cellular coverage in London’s underground rail network was also dismissed.