The Minister responsible for overseeing the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband in New Zealand says it would not be appropriate for her to ask Australian authorities why they banned a Chinese company from working on an Australian project due to security fears, despite that company having won contracts to install broadband infrastructure here.
The Australian government this week banned Chinese telco Huawei from taking part in the roll-out of Australia's National Broadband Network, citing national security concerns.
A spokesman for the Australian Attorney-General told media that, "as a strategic and significant government investment, we have a responsibility to do our utmost to protect [NBN's] integrity and that of the information carried on it."
The US government's House intelligence committee is also investigating Huawei on concerns its presence in the US poses a national security threat, and concerns over the company's transparency.
Huawei is headed by former Red Army engineer Ren Zhengfei. The Wall Street Journal reported last year that Huawei disclosed its directors for the first time in its 2010 annual report. The company is owned exclusively by its founders and employees.
Huawei is involved in the New Zealand government's ultra-fast broadband roll-out in Christchurch and the central North Island. It is also part of a venture seeking to build a trans-Tasman internet cable.
Communications and IT Minister Amy Adams would not say whether New Zealand authorities had asked their Australian counterparts why Huawei was banned, but said she was confident New Zealand authorities used the "full range of associations and collaborative relationships that we have," when it came to security concerns. The New Zealand intelligence service has an information sharing arrangement with its Australian counterpart.
Adams yesterday told media that security issues regarding the construction of New Zealand's ultra-fast broadband network had been raised with the government, although she would not say whether those issues concerned Huawei.
Speaking to media in Parliament Buildings on Wednesday, Adams said it would be wrong to make decisions on the basis of race or country of origin.
"It’s an issue we have to deal with, regardless of where it [a threat] comes from," she said.
“I’m not going to get into where our intelligence comes from and how those advice streams work. But as I’ve said, we have confidence that we have very good advice streams."
Asked whether she had asked the Australian government why it took to actions it did, Adams replied:
“I haven’t and it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to. But I am confident that the advice that comes to government is robust advice that uses our full range of associations and collaborative relationships that we have.”
“I’m not going to make a comment on a specific vendor, but what I have said is that I believe the government has taken excellent advice. We take security concerns that are raised very seriously, and we’re happy that we’ve got in place robust processes that mean New Zealanders can have confidence in the security of our networks,” she said.
Asked whether New Zealand authorities had asked their Australian counterparts why Huawei had been banned, Adams replied:
“I’m not going to discuss what our intelligence streams come from.”
“I haven’t [asked myself] because I don’t think it’s appropriate that I would, but I’m not going to discuss the advice streams we get and where that comes from," she said.