Wednesday, 05 August 2020 10:50

Turnbull book shows no 'smoking gun' to prompt Huawei 5G ban: Xenophon Featured

Turnbull book shows no 'smoking gun' to prompt Huawei 5G ban: Xenophon Image by Oliana Gruzdeva from Pixabay

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull recent memoir clearly shows that there was no "smoking gun" to ban Chinese telecommunications equipment vendor Huawei Technologies from bidding for participation in Australia's 5G networks, the legal firm XenophonDavis says.

The two men who make up the firm — former independent senator Nick Xenophon and ex-veteran investigative reporter Mark Davis — said in a blog post on Wednesday that suspicions about Huawei being a spying front for China had been echoed around the world ad infinitum based on undisclosed "Australian intelligence" sources.

"But in his newly released autobiography, A Bigger Picture, Turnbull has let the cat out of the bag on what that Australian intelligence was: Nothing. Zilch, Zip," Xenophon and Davis wrote in the post which they released on Twitter.

The pair, who have been hired by Huawei Australia to combat scurrilous rumours being spread about the company, made a clear disclosure about this affiliation in the blog post. They said Turnbull had clearly stated that there was no suspicious behaviour by Huawei that led to Australia deciding to ban the company from a role in 5G networks Down Under.

"The claimed future threat was based on nothing but the ethnic origin of the company: it was Chinese," Xenophon and Davis said. "In short, Huawei did nothing wrong in this country at all; its reputation was trashed as a hedge.

"Huawei isn't state-owned or a plaything of the Chinese Communist Party as claimed, without a shred of evidence," Xenophon and Davis said. " It is a phenomenally successful capitalist enterprise. Perhaps that is its true crime in the trade war that is unfolding."

They said Turnbull had offered a hint in his book about the real threat posed by Huawei.

He wrote: "It concerned me that over many years, the US and its top allies had allowed leadership in wireless technology to shift to China and Europe. This is arguably the most enabling technology of our time, it is absurd that the US and its closes allies, like Australia, weren't leading players."

Xenophon and Davis said: "Every imaginable anti-Chinese slur has been hurled at Huawei in the mainstream media and social media over the last few years. not the least of which is the bogus claim that it is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.

"It seems that suave commentators have learned that every old racist trope can he wheeled if it masquerades as an attack on the 'communists'."

On Tuesday, Huawei Australia put out a statement dismissing claims by Turnbull made on the ABC's Four Corner program on Monday that he had been the first to raise the subject of banning Huawei from bidding to be a supplier for Australia's 5G networks.

A Huawei Australian spokesperson said it was on the public record — in a report in the Australian Financial Review on 24 February — that Turnbull was briefed by the US National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security about their concerns over the Chinese company being involved in Australia's 5G rollout.

Xenophon and Davis said even the unpredictable US President Donald Trump was "impressed and a little surprised" by Turnbull's move in what turned out to be the last phone call between the two leaders.

"Despite a complete lack of evidence, the government and the intelligence bureaucracy stood by and watched as 'Australian intelligence' was referred to reverentially around the world as a basis to damage an honest company," Xenophon and Davis said.

They said these insults were picked up and repeated by others, such as the defence industry lobby group Australian Strategic Policy Institute, that escalated and amplified the innuendo.

"At one point, ASPI even suggested in an opinion piece in the AFR on 17 June 2019 that garbage trucks in Bendigo could be a risk to national security if fitted with Wi-Fi sensors made by Huawei. Garbage indeed," the two said.

That piece, written by an alleged researcher named Elise Thomas, said: "In Bendigo, for example, garbage trucks were equipped with WiFi sensors to map signal strength for a network of connected devices. That network now covers 80% of Bendigo and is being used to develop heat maps of the city. City authorities have suggested more sensors could be attached to garbage trucks in the future to collect other kinds of data.

"If done well, projects like this can be of great benefit. However, if they are implemented badly, are poorly secured or involve partner companies whose own security may be in doubt, they could pose a risk both to local communities and to national security more broadly."

The baseless attacks that flowed from the government's decision had cost Huawei billions, led to thousands, including hundreds who worked for the company in Australia, losing their jobs.

"And all this came from a government that claims to uphold the virtues of rule of law, free enterprise and a level playing field for business," they said in a sarcastic aside.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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