“I think as part of the policy of any new government – given that the world is interconnected, policies are interconnected, laws are interconnected in some instances – we all need to work out better ways of working in this digitally-connected environment, which does pose some additional risks,” Mr Suffolk said.
“I’m more than happy to come down and spend time with any government, new or re-made old, to have a conversation which says how can we do the best for Australia in a world that is full of risk,” he said.
Mr Suffolk said Huawei was being treated as a possible “criminal” in Australia, despite no proof the company had done anything wrong.
“I think Australia needs to be putting the citizens first not political priorities first. Security [as a concern] is not going to go away,” he said.
Telco sources do not expect a Labor government, if it wins the election, would reverse the Liberal government’s position on Huawei. The Labor government imposed a ban on Huawei’s involvement in the National Broadband Network roll out in 2012.
“There aren’t many countries who have said no to Huawei,” Mr Suffolk said.
“If they’ve said no to Huawei, they’ve said no to Huawei on a particular project. With Australia, for example, it was NBN and then 5G,” he said, describing communication channels as “open” with the government.
“Whenever a country is saying no to any particular thing and that no is not based on forensic analysis, then in essence all they are doing is pushing their citizens to mediocrity and expensive technology.”
One option Huawei would prefer to an outright ban is a testing centre, funded by the telco giant but open for authorities and independent experts to analyse their kit and algorithms. The UK has had a testing centre since 2010 and Brussels opened one in March.
“We’ve had a conversation [about an Australian testing centre] many times with the Australian government. I’ve been to Australia, I’ve had that conversation myself. They say … not our problem, it’s the problem of the operators, they must choose whatever mechanisms they think is appropriate,” he said.
Jennifer Duke attended the Huawei Global Analyst Summit 2019 in Shenzhen courtesy of Huawei.
Jennifer Duke is a media and telecommunications journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.