Former Australian lawmaker retires from board of Huawei unit

Mr John Brumby, a former premier of the state of Victoria, will leave the board of Huawei on March 1, 2019.
Mr John Brumby, a former premier of the state of Victoria, will leave the board of Huawei on March 1, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - A former Australian lawmaker retired from the board of the local arm of China's Huawei Technologies Co on Friday (Feb 1), potentially weakening the firm's efforts to withstand government moves to restrict its market access on security grounds.

Mr John Brumby, a former premier of the state of Victoria, will leave the world's biggest maker of telecommunications equipment on March 1 after eight years as a director of its Australian subsidiary.

His exit reduces Huawei's influence in Canberra at a time when Western nations are increasing scrutiny of Chinese telecoms equipment makers over concern that China's government could use their products for espionage. Huawei says the concern is unfounded.

Mr Brumby was a key figure in Huawei's unsuccessful efforts to prevent Australia's conservative government banning the company from participating in the country's fifth-generation (5G) communications network last year.

"The timing of my retirement from the board is completely unrelated to any recent commentary regarding China and Huawei," Mr Brumby said in an e-mailed statement.

"I remain a strong supporter of closer ties between Australia and China, particularly in the fields of investment, trade, education and R&D."

Huawei has been under siege since the arrest of its chief financial officer in Canada in December at the behest of the United States. The US Justice Department has accused Huawei of bank fraud and conspiring to steal trade secrets. Huawei denies wrongdoing.

Though barred from Australia's 5G network, Huawei has maintained its presence in the region and has secured a series of contracts in the face of Australian objection.

"Brumby, as a former premier, carries weight as a lobbyist. Losing someone of that stature will hurt Huawei's efforts to prosecute its case and to be allowed to expand in the region," said Dr Haydon Manning, professor of politics at Flinders University in South Australia.