The Soap Box: Spy agency's Huawei ban conveniences Government

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Friday, 30 November 2018, 7:30AM
Huawei's been in this country for well over a decade and yet it wasn't consulted by the spies before they told Spark they won't be doing the business the way they'd planned it.
Huawei's been in this country for well over a decade and yet it wasn't consulted by the spies before they told Spark they won't be doing the business the way they'd planned it.

COMMENT:

The timing of the super spy agency's ban on Huawei being involved with Spark's 5G Internet rollout was convenient for the Government.

Its embarrassing botch-up of the Czech drug smuggler Karel Sroubek's residency case was small beer compared to the Huawei bombshell dropped several hours later, a little too late for the telly channels to give it in depth coverage.

The GCSB had briefed senior Government ministers about the ban on Monday telling them Huawei posed a significant risk to security.

This decision has wide-reaching implications for this country with our biggest trading partner.

It's a victory for the Americans, who've been urging like-minded countries not to do business with Huawei.

And given the suspicions (for that's all they are) that the giant telco has the ability to spy on countries that use their product in the way Spark was intending, the GCSB will also have made the Five Eyes spy network which includes NZ, the US, Britain, Australia and Canada breathe easier.

A cynic could say we're more relaxed about being spied on by the Americans, think of Waihopai, than we are the Chinese.

Our affable super spy Andrew Hampton happened to be passing my office and popped in for a chat, off the record of course, except for one thing - there was no pressure whatsoever he insisted from the Five Eyes network when it came to Huawei.

Now this is all out in the open it can come as no surprise the Chinese couldn't find the time to see Jacinda Ardern in Beijing before Christmas, she was ready to go at the drop of a hat.

And of the decision, China's Foreign Ministry has voiced serious concern at it, expressing the hope the Government here maintains a level playing field for Chinese businesses.

There's no doubt that this decision will have implications for us with our biggest trading partner by far.

The renegotiation of our Free Trade Agreement will now be on the back burner.

And if politics is truly about perception, it's hard to ignore the view that we've finally picked sides.

Huawei's been in this country for well over a decade and yet it wasn't consulted by the spies before they told Spark they won't be doing the business the way they'd planned it - meaning they'll probably have to settle for a more expensive and less efficient option.

Huawei points out that in a trial for 5G in March they achieved a world record of more than 18 gigabytes a second while their competitors could only manage one gig.

With data transfer rates at that speed perhaps that's what spooked the GCSB. Intelligence-gathering laws passed in China last year can compel the country's telcos to assist their spy network.

So maybe China's the author of its own misfortune.

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