Australia's former PM gives strongly-worded warning about Huawei's 5G technology

Ex-Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. (Photo by SAEED KHAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Malcolm Turnbull, the former Prime Minister of Australia, has urged Britain not to use Huawei’s telecommunications equipment when building out its 5G network.

Huawei is a Chinese tech giant and some western nations have said they’re concerned that the company’s hardware could be used by the Chinese government for spying purposes.

Speaking to an audience at the Henry Jackson Society in London, Turbull said that Australia chose to ban the Chinese firm’s technology on the back of its own security advice, not pressure from the US.

“One of the final decisions of my Government was to ban telecommunications companies which could not meet our security requirements (such as Huawei and ZTE) from providing equipment to our new 5G phone networks, on national security grounds,” said Turnbull.

“We were the first nation to do so. And we so decided not because another country told us to let alone for protectionist reasons, but to defend our own sovereignty and to hedge against changing times. It is important to remember that a threat is the combination of capability and intent.”

Turnbull’s Huawei comments are among the strongest made by an Australian politician. He said he discussed the issue of Huawei with President Donald Trump on several occasions and he warned the audience, which contained a number of British MPs, that 5G networks pose more of a risk than their predecessors.

“5G is different,” he said. “Not only will it deliver much greater bandwidth (mbps) but also much lower latency. It will also be the platform on which billions of devices, large and small, will run from sensors to automated vehicles.

“And the old distinction between the core and the radio access network or the edge will no longer be applicable.”

The British government is currently carrying out a review of whether the UK should use Huawei’s equipment ahead of a Cabinet decision. The results of the review will not be made public.

“I note the United Kingdom is still considering its position, but the strong views of GCHQ recently expressed, consonant with our own, did not come as a surprise,” said Turnbull, who referenced last month’s cyber attack on Australia’s Parliament by a state actor.

“Like it was for Australia, this is a sovereign decision for the UK. Regardless of the final decision, it is incumbent on our two nations to treat cyber as a matter of bilateral importance and ensure our citizens can have the confidence that their governments and intelligence communities are working to keep them and their families safe not only offline but online.”

In addition to cybersecurity, Turnbull also discussed issues relating to trade, China, the South China Sea, and defence investment.

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