The Australian Government has blocked Chinese telecom giant Huawei, from bidding for contracts on Australia’s ambitious national broadband project (NBN) worth AUS $35.9 billion, allegedly due to cyber-security concerns. The NBN, which aims to connect 93% of Australian homes to superfast fibre-to-the-home Internet by 2017, is to become the backbone of Australia's information infrastructure.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard whose office has recently taken responsibility for Australia’s national cyber-security told reporters the decision to keep Huawei out was to protect national interest without giving specific reasons. However a source familiar with the deal told AFP Huawei was blocked due to fears of cyber-espionage from China, having been founded by a former People's Liberation Army engineer. Huawei has repeatedly denied any links to the Chinese military.
Former foreign minister Alexander Downeraid defended Huawei to reporters stating "This whole concept of Huawei being involved in cyber warfare, presumably... based on the fact that the company comes from China and everybody in China who's involved with information technology is involved in cyber warfare... is just completely absurd."
Jeremy Mitchell, Director of Corporate Affairs at Huawei Australia expressed disappointed with the decision and told reporters Huawei was involved in the building of broadband networks in Britain, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia and was "on track to become the world's largest telecoms equipment vendor…You don't get to that level of success unless you have customers that trust your company." It is not the first time cyber fears have hit major telecoms deals in Australia. In 2001 the takeover of Cable & Wireless Optus by Singapore's SingTel was heavily scrutinised due to espionage fears.