The head of the Australian subsidiary of Huawei Technologies Ltd. has urged Australia not to be swayed by report from the U.S. Congress that referred to the Chinese telecommunications giant as a potential security risk.
Huawei Australia Chairman John Lord told the National Press Club on Wednesday that the debate about cybersecurity in Australia should not "become distorted the way it has in the U.S."
Lord was scathing of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee report earlier this month that said American companies should avoid sourcing network equipment from Huawei and fellow Chinese technology provider ZTE Corp. because both companies posed a national security threat to the United States.
"The U.S. Committee report must be called for what it is: protectionism, not security," Lord said in a speech.
"The fiery rhetoric of the U.S. Committee's report may make good headline fodder in an election year, but it should really be seen as a missed opportunity" to realistically address cyber threats, he added.
Lord said for Australia to protect its critical infrastructure from cyberattacks, all companies that provide equipment from overseas should be subject to the same rigorous security assessment procedures.
"If we are to find real solutions to real cybersecurity problems, we cannot allow the discussion to be muddied by issues like the ongoing trade conflict between the U.S. and China," he said.
"Huawei wants to find solutions to the problem. We are not going to get bogged down by political distractions from it," he added.
The Australian government barred Huawei late last year on security grounds from working on construction of a 36 billion Australian dollar ($37 billion) national broadband network.
Lord said while the reasons were never explained to him, he did not believe the Australian government saw his company as a threat to national security.
But he said such a government decision and the U.S. Congressional report damaged Huawei's reputation in the 140 countries where it did business.
Defense Minister Stephen Smith told a conference on Wednesday said that government cybersecurity authorities had identified more than 1,250 cyber incidents in Australia in the first nine months of the year — almost the same number as for all 2011.
Australia, the United States and Britain have agreed to cooperate more closely on cybersecurity.