It’s no secret that Australia is in a very unstable position when it comes to malicious foreign influence — in our politics, economy and society. Now, its reach has been felt in the very foundations of our infrastructure — quite literally.
The controversial Chinese company, Huawei has been granted a $136 million telecommunications contract by the Western Australian state government, rousing concerns the agreement could compromise Australia’s security.
Huawei is in a joint venture with the engineering services provider UGL, building 4G communications systems for voice and data services on Perth trains. This venture also includes the incomplete Forrestfield Airport link.
What are the security concerns of the Huawei and UGL deal?
Intelligence agencies and politicians alike have long expressed fears about Huawei having access to Australian infrastructure and technology.
One such politician is WA opposition leader Mike Nahan, who voiced of significant security concerns about the deal. ‘There are serious strategic issues relating to this contract,’ he said.
The main worry Mr Nahan sees— as reported by the ABC — is that the project would be integrated with data from emergency services within a year, bringing ‘serious strategic issues with Huawei’s ownership and operation of that facility.’
This is giving new traction to several MPs who are insisting that Huawei should be banned from the 5G network due to similar security concerns.
Labor backbencker, Michael Danby is all for blocking the Chinese company from the 5G network, rejecting its claims of being a more cooperative enterprise rather than state-owned and controlled.
‘What a load of tosh’ Mr Danby said, stating that Huawei officials previously told parliament’s intelligence and security committee that it did in fact report to Beijing’s ruling government.
‘…To say that they’re just a commercial organisation and a workers cooperative is simply laughable,’ Danby stated.
But it’s no laughing matter when it comes to the security and privacy of the Australian government and its citizens.
‘Who do these people think we are fools?’ Mr Danby asked.
‘If a Chinese large company wants to try and build a fruit and vegetable exporting empire in the Ord and Fitzroy River, I’m less concerned about that than the electronic backdoor to Australia
‘On matters like the electronic spine of Australia, the new 5G network which will control the internet of things — automatically driven cars, lifts medical technology — I don’t think it’s appropriate to sell or allow a company like Huawei to participate.’
Should we be more concerned?
Intelligence community services already consider Huawei to be a cyber espionage risk to critical infrastructure. And it seems likely it will be blocked from taking part in the 5G mobile network. The company was blocked from building the National Broadband Network because of advice received from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).
Similarly, Australia took charge to thwart a contract Huawei had signed to build a 4,000 kilometre undersea internet cable between the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Australia, amid rising concerns about national security and China’s growing influence in the Pacific.
And sure, some worry what the knock on effect will be after aggravating tensions with China. After all, they are our biggest trading partner.
But it’s time that Aussie politicians focused on protecting and the safety and security of our citizens.
While there is no telling what will come of the telecommunications deal with Huawei, you should be wary of a company that has already caused so many concerns.
By Leah Wallace
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