Purdy, who arrives in Australia Tuesday morning for public forums, admitted that the company “was not trying to win this battle” [with the Australian government] soon “but said a long-term approach to cybersecurity may one day allow the company to do more business in Australia.
“People are focusing on China, people are focusing on Huawei, but you have the global supply chain with the largest footprint in China, including our European competitors,” he said.
“Ask the experts what is being done to counter the risk of China hacking Nokia and Ericsson products and launching attacks in Australia? What are we doing about it?”
Nokia and Ericsson are Huawei’s main competitors in the development of next generation telecommunications networks. Huawei claims that European companies’ products are more expensive and technologically inferior.
Much of Nokia and Ericsson equipment is made in China with state-owned joint venture partners linked to the Chinese Communist Party.
Purdy said there should be an “assurance and transparency initiative for all providers of telecommunications equipment”, with significant involvement of Australian network operators. Purdy said Huawei is willing to participate fully in any monitoring initiative.
Last week, Huawei disbanded its Australian board, including President John Lord’s position, in the face of mounting job losses linked to the ban on its participation in 5G.
Australia was the first country to ban the company from providing technology for 5G networks. The U.S. has also announced a ban as Britain has deviated from its main intelligence allies, allowing Huawei to participate in its deployment to a limited extent.
Earlier this year, a former Australian intelligence official released how the government investigated the possibility of “preventing a sophisticated state actor from accessing our networks through a provider”, ultimately concluding that it could not be done.
“We asked ourselves, if we had the powers akin to China’s 2017 intelligence law to run a company that provides 5G equipment to telecommunications networks, what could we do with it and could someone help us? Stop?” Simeon Gilding wrote for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
“We concluded that we could be great, no one would know and, if they knew, we could likely deny our business, knowing that it would be too late to reverse billions of dollars in investment.”
Fergus Hunter is an education and communications reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.