China’s Huawei Could Gain Access to CCTV in West Australia’s Public Transport Network

By Mimi Nguyen-ly

Huawei may gain access to CCTV camera footage across Perth’s public transport system, if it wins its bid to provide free public Wi-Fi in the city’s train and bus network, Western Australian (WA) government documents have revealed.

Government documents released under Freedom of Information (FOI) show WA’s Public Transport Authority (PTA) is considering Huawei as the provider of free Wi-Fi across its Transperth public transport network, according to The Australian newspaper.

The Australian reported PTA executive Brian Blagaich had written an email to colleagues in November 2017 saying: “Huawei are, in fact, in the Wi-Fi project team.” Another email showed a message from an unknown PTA executive, noting the potential “synergies” between Huawei’s proposed role as a Wi-Fi provider and its tender at the time for a 4G communications system contract for Perth’s rail network.

A spokesman for WA Premier Mark McGowan told The Australian Huawei had recently become the equipment provider for a free Wi-Fi trial on a small number of trains and buses in Perth. The trial will determine whether free Wi-Fi should be applied to Transperth’s network.

The spokesperson said Huawei’s access to thousands of CCTV cameras across Perth’s public transport system would be supervised if its Wi-Fi provider role is finalised.

“The contractor will have no unsupervised access to CCTV within trains or real-time monitoring of trackside assets,” he told The Australian.

“Huawei is the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world and its products can be found in countless households, workplaces, and public sectors across Australia,” he added. “The free Wi-Fi trial on Transperth services is being delivered by Optus. Optus does use some Huawei equipment, such as routers and access points, which poses no risk to passengers or the state.”

McGowan has said federal security agencies did not identify any issues with Huawei, according to The Australian.

Centre-right Coalition opposition leader Mike Nahan said McGowan should be more transparent about how many projects Huawei has been involved in across WA.

“Mark McGowan has been caught out deceiving the people of Western Australia over what he knew about the national security risks associated with Huawei,” he told The Australian. “How can we believe what the Premier says about the role of Huawei in the free Wi-Fi project?”

Security Concerns Raised

Because of national security concerns, Huawei was banned from Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) in 2012, and 5G Network in August, 2018.

In July, the WA government awarded Huawei A$136.1 million ($97.9 million) to supply a 4G digital radio communication system across Perth’s rail network.

Nahan obtained documents under FOI showing that McGowan had been told in a confidential memo in July 2 that Shenzhen-based Huawei’s technology poses security risks, The Australian reported.

WA’s Transport Minister Rita Saffioti has also warned about Huawei’s security risks, a separate memo revealed, according to The Australian. The memo raised concerns from the United States that Huawei’s equipment could be employed for surveillance, as well as security risks that led Huawei from being banned from Australia’s NBN in 2012.