Huawei infiltrates Australia despite Chinese espionage risks
Controversial Chinese tech giant Huawei is attracting new private and government contracts despite worldwide warnings about espionage and national security risks, a News Corp investigation can reveal.
The company, which Britain banned from its 5G mobile phone networks this week, is currently rolling out mobile phone towers across six states and territories, branching out into Australian solar farms, and continues to win work from private enterprise and state government.
It's a move critics warned could be risky in the current security environment.
And, although its profits have fallen since bans on its involvement in 5G, the Chinese firm still generated more than $650 million in Australia last year.
Huawei has come under increased scrutiny in Australia over the past decade after being banned from supplying equipment to the National Broadband Network in 2012 and, along with other Chinese firms, forbidden from playing a part in Australia's 5G mobile networks by then acting Home Affairs Minister Scott Morrison in 2018.
But Australian Strategic Policy Institute cyber security expert Fergus Hanson said there were more risks Australia had yet to address in allowing Chinese companies to handle sensitive information and infrastructure as their national laws demanded assistance with "state intelligence work".
"5G is just the tip of the iceberg," Mr Hanson told News Corp Australia.
"There are lots of technologies being developed or that have been developed where this same issue will come up.
"Cloud storage is a really obvious risk. Should Australian government departments or companies be storing their data in the Chinese cloud? Unless you're talking about the most benign data, that would be crazy."
Mr Hanson said restrictions on Chinese firms handling sensitive data including medical records and intellectual property, as well as acquiring Australian firms should also be considered as the country adopted a "more aggressive" approach towards nations including Australia, India, Vietnam, Canada and the United States.
But News Corp can reveal the Chinese company is still deeply involved in the Australian market and is actively expanding into new fields.
Though it is banned from supplying 5G equipment, Huawei sold $460 million worth of equipment to Aussie telecommunications carriers including Vodafone and Optus for 3G and 4G networks last year, and received $49 million from private companies for projects including Wi-Fi networks - up $15 million on the year before.
Huawei is also strongly tipped to win a contract to supply communications for Brisbane's Cross River Rail project, recently won a second contract with NSW Rail, and is supplying hardware to two Victorian solar farms, including one near Benalla.
The Chinese firm's solar technology, including transformer stations, has also been linked to Queensland's planned EIWA solar farm near Bundaberg that will supply electricity to Ergon Energy.
Huawei Australia chief executive Hudson Liu told News Corp the new ventures were designed to expand its business in Australia to new fields.
"In the absence of being able to do 5G we will seek new opportunities across the sector," he said.
"We have excellent products in things like Wi-Fi 6 that can deliver 10 gigabit per second broadband throughput to places like sports stadiums, shopping centres and so on as part of our enterprise products.
"We are absolutely committed to Australia in the long-term - we are here to stay."
Huawei has also been publicly agitating for reduced restrictions in Australia, with regular online "chats" with executives, reports into 5G, and a publicity campaign spearheaded by former senator and lawyer Nick Xenophon, who recently called the firm "one of the most unfairly maligned companies in Australian history".
The company also hired former Bachelorette star Sophie Monk to head its Australian Mate 20 smartphone campaign last year, and recently launched new partnerships with Samsonite, Karcher, and Opple for smart home products.
Originally published as Huawei infiltrates Australia despite Chinese espionage risks