Scott Morrison faces a new and potentially damaging decision on Chinese technology amid calls for a ban on the use of Chinese data centres, critical infrastructure systems and networked security cameras by government and key private sector firms.
Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi has repeated his call, until now rejected by the Morrison government, for a royal commission into Chinese Communist Party influence in Australia.
The Australian reports, the federal government, which banned China’s Huawei from participating in the country’s 5G network on security grounds, has no consistent policy on the use of products and services from other “high-risk vendors”.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute cyber-security expert Fergus Hanson said new rules are urgently needed to protect information and ensure control of critical infrastructure.
“Chinese law literally says Chinese companies need to participate in state-based espionage, and have a long track record of stealing IP,” Mr Hanson said. “So you’d be pretty insane to be storing your company or government data in the Chinese cloud. But there is no law against doing that, so theoretically government departments can use (Chinese-owned) Alibaba Cloud to store their data.”
Mr Hanson said the government’s current approach on dealing with such companies was ad hoc, “so every time we make a decision we are annoying the Chinese”.
“It would be better off just to have a principle, to say these are activities that have a national security interest … we will mandate technology from rule-of-law countries,” he said.
The warning follows that of former Defence secretary Dennis Richardson in The Australian yesterday, saying Australia risked being caught in a “technological Cold War” between the US and China.
Mr Richardson, a former director-general of ASIO and ambassador to Washington, said the consequences for Australia could be negative, with the country denied access to some of the best available technologies.