In his short tenure as Home Affairs minister, Scott Morrison killed Huawei's bid to build Australia's 5G network

Photo: Scott Morrison MP/Facebook

  • ScoMo press release lays out obligations for telcos involved in building Australia’s 5G network.
  • No room for companies that are “subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government”.
  • Huawei “disappointed”, has “securely delivered wireless technology in Aust for close to 15 yrs”.

In the middle of a tumultuous week in Parliament, where heads were offered and bodies swapped sides, it looks like the biggest axe came down on Chinese telco Huawei.

The Federal Government has released its official position on how it will decide who bids to build Australia’s 5G network.

Here’s the part that Huawei — the world’s second biggest smartphone maker — dreaded:

The government considers that 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.

“Subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government” is exactly what the telco has been accused of in the past.

And soon after, Huawei confirmed what it meant for the company:

The announcement came from Scott Morrison, who’s been acting Home Affairs minister for just two days as the Liberal Party turns itself inside out looking for a leader who can threaten Labor’s Bill Shorten at the next federal election.

Morrison himself has been touted as one such candidate.

But there’s not a lot that is sinister about the timing of the announcement, as it was due this week anyway.

And this kind of treatment isn’t new to Huawei. It has previously been banned from contributing to core parts of the NBN network, and in February, Australia’s Defence force confirmed to Business Insider that it no longer uses any Huawei phones.

Fellow Chinese brand ZTE also faced the same restrictions.

The fight properly started heating up in February, when during a visit to the US, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was reportedly briefed by the head of the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security regarding concerns over Huawei’s desire to supply equipment for the new network in Australia.

“When you control telco networks, you can control everything,” one official said at the time.

‘They can’t compete with us’

LAS VEGAS, NV – JANUARY 05: CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group Richard Yu introduces the Huawei Mate 9 phone. Picture: Getty Images

Richard Yu, the head of Huawei’s consumer business, responded by claiming: “We’re independent from any country, any government. We’re not involved in politics.”

Yu blamed the treatment on competitors using politics to kick Huawei out of the market.

“They can’t compete with us on the technology and innovation so they compete with us on the politics,” he said.

But the Federal Government’s concerns exist around the ease with which Beijing can order Chinese companies to participate in “national intelligence work,” potentially allowing the Chinese Communist Party access to critical Australian infrastructure.

In today’s statement, Morrison said the new 5G architecture “provides a way to circumvent traditional security controls by exploiting equipment in the edge of the network”.

At risk was network integrity and availability, as well as customer data.

“A long history of cyber incidents shows cyber actors target Australia and Australians.”

Security controls on current networks would be “ineffective” in 5G, Morrison said.

Huawei chairman John Lord has been trying to get on the front foot since Turnbull’s trip to the US in February. In June, Lord went on national radio to claim Huawei was “18 months ahead of its competitors” on 5G technology.

At risk were 750 jobs and, in a letter to Australian MPs and senators, Lord stressed that “to completely exclude Huawei from 5G in Australia means excluding Huawei from the entire Australian market”.

“Increased competition not only means cheaper prices but most importantly better access to the latest technologies and innovation.”

At a breakfast in Melbourne earlier this month, Huawei Australia’s cyber chief Malcolm Shore defended the company saying “there’s been no specific allegations and much less any proof”.

“Any rational assessment would conclude that a $100 billion private company would not want to be found compromising itself,” Shore said.

Morrison today claimed the government had a “long-standing committment to a level playing field in the sector” and had been working with telcos to ensure they “were ready to comply when the legislation commences on 18 September 2018”.

The other bidder for Australia’s 5G contracts is Finland’s Nokia, which was recently shown to have ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

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