Greens call for enquiry into Huawei's UFB involvement

UPDATED: Labour says government 'stonewalling', Pacific Fibre CEO weighs into the debate,

Following reports that the Australian government has shut out Huawei from participating in its National Broadband Network, New Zealand’s Green Party has asked for a formal inquiry into the telco equipment manufacturer's involvement in government-backed fibre networks here.

Russel Norman, Green Party’s co-leader, has written to Prime Minister John Key to request that the Intelligence and Security Committee investigates security concerns regarding Huawei's role in the Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) and Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI).

Enable in Christchurch and Ultra Fast in the central North Island have chosen Huawei as the technology partner in their regions. Chorus is using some Huawei equipment in the RBI, and is considering using Huawei for the electronics layer of its broadband network.

The Green party’s ICT spokesman, Gareth Hughes, says New Zealand should consider whether to follow Australia and the United States in blocking technology bids from Huawei.

"The New Zealand taxpayer will be purchasing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment and services off Huawei, and the Government needs to demonstrate that this doesn't have any strings attached that will harm our cyber security,” says Hughes.

“Huawei has been blocked in both Australia and the United States over security concerns and it's hard to believe our security agencies know something about Huawei that Australia and the United States don't."

Huawei said yesterday it did not see the Australian government’s move to block it’s involvement in NBN affecting its contracts with companies involved in the UFB here.

In a media statement Huawei said that “network security is an issue which affects governments, operators, end-users and vendors alike. Addressing security issues must be done collaboratively and cooperatively - no single entity can resolve the challenges posed by network security”

“Individuals and governments around the world are still coming to grips with the emergence of the new China which is an innovation leader. As China’s largest private company, Huawei is at the forefront of that – being the world’s number-one company for new patent applications in 2008. While network security is an issue for all vendors, the real risk is missing out on the innovation China has to offer.”

Meanwhile Pacific Fibre CEO Mark Rushworth has commented on Australia’s Huawei concerns in a blog post on the company’s website:

“The United States has previously expressed concerns about Huawei and other Chinese submarine cable suppliers fearing security breaches (e.g. interception of sensitive data),” he writes.

“The issues raised by the US and Australian authorities’ concerns with Chinese suppliers further validate our decision last year to appoint TE SubCom, a US company and industry pioneer in undersea communications technology, to build the subsea portion of the Pacific Fibre cable.”

Rushworth was a member of a mission headed by Trade Minister Tim Groser, to China last year. When asked by Computerworldwhether the trip had been successful, Rushworth said he was looking for investors in a number of regions – Asia, Middle East, the US and Australia but wasn’t prepared to be specific at that time.


Labour ICT spokesperson Clare Curran claims the government is “stonewalling” on Huawei’s role in the UFB.

“The Government is refusing to explain why it has taken a different decision to the Australian Government when it comes to security matters relating to Huawei’s involvement in broadband projects.

“While the Australian Government has banned Huawei from tendering for any contracts attached to its $36 billion broadband scheme, our Prime Minister blithely says he is ‘comfortable with checks done’ over the security of the New Zealand network.

“The Australians are considered to be a partner in terms of our security and intelligence relationships. If they are concerned enough to ban Huawei from bidding for the broadband contract, why has New Zealand allowed three taxpayer-funded contracts to go ahead without a more robust probe into the implications for the integrity of our network?”

Curran says New Zealand’s international reputation is at stake.

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