Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Huawei still locked out of NBN -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

ELEANOR HALL: To Canberra now and the Federal Government has confirmed that it will continue to ban the Chinese company, Huawei, from tendering for work on the National Broadband Network.

The Chinese telecom has not been able to overcome security concerns from Australian intelligence agencies.

The previous Labor government banned Huawei on ASIO's advice.

Now the Federal Attorney-General, George Brandis, says he consulted the agencies again and will keep the ban in place.

As Louise Yaxley reports from Parliament House.

LOUISE YAXLEY: Huawei is a privately-owned Chinese company that set up in Australia nearly 10 years ago.

Since then it has been working to overcome suspicions about how it operates, including setting up an Australian board with former foreign minister, Alexander Downer, and former Victorian premier, John Brumby.

In an appearance before Federal Parliament's intelligence and Security committee last year, Huawei's Australian Chairman, John Lord, said nearly every State premier has now been to Huawei's headquarters in China.

Labor MP Michael Danby is the Opposition Leader's Parliamentary Secretary. He was on that security committee and says it was a revealing hearing.

MICHAEL DANBY: An appearance by the way, they weren't subpoenaed or forced or arm-twisted. They volunteered and they confirmed the two major allegations in the Economist - one, that in order to position itself strategically as a company they received soft loans from Chinese state banks, which puts them in a position to undercut competitors. Mr Admiral Lord, who was their chairman, confirmed that.

And the second thing is that a communist party cell is giving instructions to the leadership of what otherwise is apparently a commercial organisation.

LOUISE YAXLEY: Huawei's lobbying - some called it a charm offensive - was not effective on Australian intelligence agencies, which recommended it be banned from tendering for the National Broadband Network which Labor implemented.

In the lead up to the Federal election the Coalition's Spokesman, Malcolm Turnbull, promised a review.

But today the Attorney-General George Brandis has issued a statement which makes it clear the intelligence agencies have not changed their mind and he's not overturning the ban.

Labor's Michael Danby says it's the right call.

MICHAEL DANBY: What we're talking about is the Australian Government receiving advice from specialist agencies and the new government working to the same standard that the previous government did. And that is accepting that advice, it being given by experts that the controversial Chinese telco - the one described on the front cover of the Economist as the company that spooked the world - not be allowed to bid for the central nervous system of the Australian telecommunications system, the NBN.

LOUISE YAXLEY: The Greens leader Christine Milne also supports the move.

CHRISTINE MILNE: There have been real concerns about intelligence and security and I think we need to consider those seriously and so I support that.

LOUISE YAXLEY: Mr Turnbull, who had promised the review, has not been available for comment and Senator Brandis isn't commenting, saying that it's a long standing practice not to discuss advice from intelligence agencies.

Huawei itself appears not to have given up, issuing a brief statement saying it understands no decisions have been made by the Government regarding the NBN, pending outcomes of the strategic review.

Mr Danby's taken a close interest in the issue, supporting the original ban and the Coalition's decision to extend it.

He says he doesn't expect it will have an impact on the chances of finalising a free trade deal with China, but says even if it does, the intelligence agencies advice should be accepted.

MICHAEL DANBY: There are some, a couple of business journalists who seem to be very close to the Chinese view on this, who say that not signing up to the NBN would harm the free trade agreement. Frankly, if that were so and we'd receive advice from the security services that we shouldn't be involved, well, that's unfortunately a road we'd have to go down.

But if China and Australia have commercial interests where we should sign a free trade agreement, I can't believe that this government being consistent with the past government would be a basis for not proceeding with such a you know, understandable commercial arrangement which would be in the interests of both countries.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Michael Danby, who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Opposition Leader, ending that report from Louise Yaxley.