Former foreign minister Alexander Downer has criticised suggestions that Huawei is somehow involved in cyber warfare after the Chinese vendor was blocked from bidding for NBN work over security fears.
The Australian Financial Review reported on Saturday that the Government had banned Huawei from tendering for work on the next-generation network last December due to "concerns over cyber attacks originating in China".
It today revealed the Government made its decision based on advice from Australian intelligence agency ASIO, despite NBN Co endorsing the company following a visist to Huawei's Shenzen, China headquarters.
A spokesman for the Attorney-General's office said the Government had a responsibility to protect the "integrity [of the NBN] and that of the information carried on it."
"This is consistent with the government's practice for ensuring the security and resilience of Australia's critical infrastructure more broadly," the spokesperson said of the decision.
Huawei has long battled perceived links to the Chinese Government and security fears over the potential for 'backdoors' to be included in telecommunications equipment.
Downer - who joined the Huawei Australia board last year - was scathing of the links drawn between Huawei and cyber attacks.
"This whole concept of Huawei being involved in cyber warfare presumably ... would be based on the fact that Huawei comes from China," Downer told the ABC's AM program.
"This is just completely absurd."
Corporate affairs spokesman Jeremy Mitchell told AM there was "no way" that Huawei would ever risk installing backdoors into its products.
He later told ABC Radio National that the company was still hopeful of winning NBN work, despite the ban.
Mitchell was initially dismissive of suggestions that the ban was over Huawei's business practices, real or alleged.
"What the Government made clear though was that [the ban] wasn't about Huawei particularly," he said.
"It wasn't about anything we had done or were likely to do in our endeavours as a business."
Mitchell said it was "important we don't paint China with one brush" when it comes to linking Chinese entities with the country's image as a source of internet security attacks.
He said that such attacks "come from around the world". He also said it was important that government and industry "work together to ensure the safety" of the NBN.
And he said that Huawei would extend a number of offers to the Government in a bid to re-enter the race for NBN work.
These included offers to open its source code or to limit NBN work to Australian citizens with appropriate security clearances.
"We're happy to put in place anything that is required," Mitchell said.
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Issue: 325 | March 2014
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