Australian PM defends banning of Chinese company

Last Updated: Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 16:36

Canberra: Australia has not harmed its relationship with Beijing by banning Chinese technology giant Huawei from helping to build a nationwide high-speed Internet network due to concern about cyber attacks traced to China, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Thursday.

In her first press conference in Australia since she returned from a nuclear summit in South Korea, Gillard said she would not comment in detail on "what ultimately are national security matters”.

She said her government`s decision was correct and had not broken any international trade rules or agreements with China, Australia`s largest trading partner with whom a free trade agreement is under negotiation.

Canberra: Australia has not harmed its relationship with Beijing by banning Chinese technology giant Huawei from helping to build a nationwide high-speed Internet network due to concern about cyber attacks traced to China, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Thursday.

In her first press conference in Australia since she returned from a nuclear summit in South Korea, Gillard said she would not comment in detail on "what ultimately are national security matters”.

She said her government`s decision was correct and had not broken any international trade rules or agreements with China, Australia`s largest trading partner with whom a free trade agreement is under negotiation.

Chinese demand for iron ore and other minerals has driven an Australian economic boom but Canberra is uneasy about Beijing`s rising military spending and growing assertiveness in Asia. The United States and Australia announced plans in September to include cyber security in their 61-year-old defence alliance, the first time Washington has done that with a partner outside NATO.

China`s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei on Wednesday responded to Huawei`s ban by urging Australia not to discriminate against Chinese companies.

"We hope the relevant authorities of Australia will provide a market environment for Chinese companies that is fair and free from discrimination, instead of wearing coloured lenses and obstructing Chinese companies` normal operation in Australia in the name of so-called security," Hong told reporters.

"We are willing to make joint efforts with Australia to promote mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation," he said.

Separately, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy would not say whether any other Chinese company could be considered for a contract on the National Broadband Network, known as the NBN.

"That`s not an issue that`s come up," Conroy told Sky television. "We`ve made this decision because the NBN is a critical piece of national infrastructure; we`ve made a decision based on all the available evidence and information; we`re not speculating on any future possibilities."

Huawei, which unlike many big Chinese companies is not state owned, has rejected suggestions it might be a security risk and said it has won the trust of global telecommunications companies.

The ban highlights concern about Beijing`s cyber warfare efforts, a spate of hacking attempts aimed at Western companies and the role of Chinese equipment providers, which are expanding abroad.

Beijing`s relations with Western governments have been strained by complaints about hacking traced to China and aimed at oil, technology and other companies. A US congressional panel has said it will investigate whether allowing Huawei and other Chinese makers of telecoms gear to expand in the United States might aid Chinese spying.

In 2010, it was blocked from taking part in upgrading a US phone carrier`s network and last year was forced to unwind its acquisition of an American computer company after a security panel rejected the deal.

Huawei expressed disappointment with Australia`s decision. It has operated in Australia since 2004 and said it already works with the country`s major telecoms companies.

Plans approved by Australian lawmakers in 2010 call for building a fiber-optic network to provide high-speed Internet access to 90 percent of the country`s homes.

Huawei said it is building similar networks in Britain, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and other countries.

Gillard announced on Thursday that construction of the fibre-optic cable section of the network will be under way or completed in areas containing 3.5 million homes and businesses in 1,500 towns and suburbs across Australia over the next three years.

Huawei was founded in 1987 by a former Chinese military engineer but says it has no connection to the military. The company says it is employee-owned but has released few details about who controls it, which has fuelled questions abroad.

Huawei, based in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, reported revenues for the first half of last year of CNY 98.3 billion (USD 15.8 billion) and says its equipment is used in 140 countries.

Bureau Report



First Published: Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 16:36

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