Allowing Huawei into NZ's 5G network 'a very delicate call'

Source: 1News

New Zealand may have to make "a very delicate call" on whether to allow Chinese company Huawei to set up technology equipment as the move to the 5G networks nears. 

TVNZ1 Q+A host Corin Dann questioned GCSB Minister Andrew Little about the decision New Zealand will have to make, after the Wall Street Journal reported the US urged Five Eyes countries to avoid using Huawei.

The US has warned the Huawei is a security threat due to the possibility of Chinese government interference. However, Huawei has denied carrying out any intelligence work for the Chinese government.  

Australia banned the company from its 5G network. 

Mr Little said making a call on Huawei may not be "for some time" and the director of GCSB has yet to complete working with Spark over the issue. 

Mr Little said he had not been approached by the US over Huawei.

"I've got some pretty clearly spelt out parameters in the telecommunications interception capability and security act that I have to stick to, if it gets to the point where I have to make a decision," he said. 

"The only focus really of any consideration I take... is national security."

National leader Simon Bridges told RNZ this morning that security should be taken seriously, however "if there isn't the evidence, we should be using [Huawei]". 

"I have not seen evidence that gives a clear sense in any way, shape or form" that New Zealand should ban Huawei, Mr Bridges said. 

"Huawei is one of the best in the business. Having them there and the commercial tenders that the sparks of this world do, does have a real effect on quality and price."

He said the US and China were in a "virtual war, whether it's trade, whether it's influence in the Pacific, whether it's wider – it matters". 

Host Corin Dann asked Mr Little if it was a risk to national security to go with Huawei against the wishes of the US and Australia, and if it could put the Five Eyes intelligence sharing at risk.

"There's then a period of time where if it is considered to be such a threat then there's time to look at mitigations," Mr Little said. 

Dann asked about the flip-side of denying Huawei and possible impacts of the relationship with China, calling it a "very delicate call for New Zealand". 

Mr Little said the current legislation "works" and it recognises "one of the biggest threats, economically and politically, is the cybersphere and the potential for cyber-attacks". 

"They do happen, and we know from other cases they can be state sponsored as well," he said. 

Huawei had partnered with Spark in March to trial the 5G network. The trial was located in Wellington "directly across from Parliament"  the statement reads , with then-Minister of Digital Technologies Clare Curran being the first member of the public to try 5G.