Huawei Australia: Can we stick to the facts please?
Appearing on ABC Radio National Breakfast with Hamish Macdonald recently I was asked a question that I get asked a lot, “Why are you still protesting the 5G ban more than two years after it happened?”
Well, the answer is simple, we are not protesting the 5G ban because we think the Federal Government will change its mind – although we’d like them to do so.
We protest it because Malcolm Turnbull and others continue to justify the 5G ban on the grounds that Huawei is a security risk to Australia and we will never, ever accept that.
We accept that the Federal Government has the right to decide which vendors can deliver 5G services in this country, we have no problem with that at all.
If the Turnbull Government had been honest from the beginning and admitted that the 5G ban was down to political pressure from the United States and their fears about Huawei and China getting too far ahead in 5G then we would have to accept that.
However, they decided to portray us as a security risk to Australia and then went around the world attempting to lobby other countries to persuade them of the same.
So, we make no apologies for defending our reputation on behalf of the thousands of Australians that Huawei has employed over our sixteen years here because it is their reputations that is being tarnished too.
We also continue to fight for our reputation because despite everything we have been through we are still absolutely committed to our business here.
Although the 5G ban has greatly reduced the size of our business in Australia we enter a new era where we focus on our Enterprise and Consumer products.
We may not be able to bring our world leading 5G technology to Australia but we can still deliver a range of other fantastic products to Australians.
All that we ask as we enter this new period is that people give us a fair chance and judge us on who we are and what we have done in our sixteen years in this country.
That’s why we are launching our new ‘Facts on Huawei’ video series to help make sure that when people talk about Huawei they are talking fact not fiction.
For example, Huawei is not owned or operated by the Chinese Government or People’s Liberation Army, we are fully owned and operated by our own employees and always have been.
We have, on more than one occasion, opened our share registry to major customers and any government that wants to look to demonstrate this as fact.
Now, to be clear, our founder Ren Zhengfei was indeed a civil engineer in the PLA but was – along with millions of others – demobilized into civilian life in 1983 where he attempted various ventures before founding Huawei in 1987 with his own money.
Huawei did not achieve its position taking hand-outs from the Chinese Government, in fact our early years were so tough partly because we did not get government help.
Our subsequent success has been down to the incredible hard work of our employees and the fact that management has got all the big calls on technology right – other companies did not.
Our perennial battle to stay alive in those early years is an extraordinary tale but the truth of the matter is that those early years baked survival into our DNA as well as the need to stay ahead of others.
That’s why Huawei has been a major investor in R&D with some $20 billion set to be invested in R&D this year alone and Huawei delivering over 20% of all the patents for 5G technology and we have 85,000 patents across the board.
The tired idea that Huawei has stolen others IP to get where we are is frankly ridiculous, as Ren himself has said, “How can we steal what you don’t have?”
Of course, being Chinese means we regularly get hit with the same question.
“China has a National Security Law which means that Huawei would have to hand over Australian data to the Chinese Government if they requested it, wouldn’t you?”
We have had that law analyzed and it actually refers more to network operators than technology vendors like Huawei and, more importantly, refers only to our operations in China – not Australia.
Guess what? The Federal Government’s Assisted Access Bill forces us to do exactly the same here too.
The bottom line is that in China we obey the Chinese law and in Australia we obey the Australian law and, as Ren Zhengfei has said, we would never compromise the trust of our customers.
So, to be clear, Huawei does not work with the Chinese intelligence agencies or indeed any other intelligence agencies – it would be corporate suicide to do so.
The bottom line is though that we are not asking you to trust us – our argument is that you should not trust anybody, not Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, NEC or any of the emerging US vendors.
When dealing with network technology governments should proceed on a zero trust basis and check everybody that wants to put kit onto a network and assess that kit to make sure it is safe and secure.
The reality is that Australia is absolutely no safer from banning Huawei just because we are a Chinese company since all of the 5G kit being installed here by Ericsson and Nokia is – by their own admission – made in China by Chinese companies.
So, Australia has banned Huawei from 5G for being Chinese – a decision which many commentators say is what helped to fracture Australia-China political relations – and yet still imports its 5G kit from China anyway – and doesn’t even test it.
Instead of this illogical approach Australia should – as is being done across the European Union – implement a standards based testing approach in which everyone’s kit is tested to meet the most rigorous security standards.
This is the only way to deliver the best possible 5G Cyber-Security rather than our current approach in which we are importing our 5G kit from the same country whose companies have been banned from supplying it!
Jeremy Mitchell is Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Huawei Australia
Watch “Facts on Huawei” video here: