China's Huawei Leads as Corporate Sponsor of Australian Politicians' Travel


China’s Huawei Leads as Corporate Sponsor of Australian Politicians’ Travel

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A Huawei booth at a consumer electronics show in Shanghai this month.CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

By Jacqueline Williams

  • June 26, 2018

SYDNEY, Australia — A dozen Australian politicians were treated to lavish overseas trips paid for by a Chinese technology company that has been dogged in the West by questions about security and privacy, according to a report released on Tuesday, raising new concerns about Chinese efforts to influence Australia’s lawmakers.

The company, Huawei, was the biggest corporate sponsor of overseas travel for the country’s politicians from 2010 to this year, according to an independent analysis by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think tank based in Canberra.

Huawei has been essentially shut out of doing business in the United States, and is likely to be barred from bidding on contracts to build a fifth-generation, or 5G, telecom network in Australia over concerns about spying and security.

The report comes amid heightened concerns about Chinese meddling in Australian politics, and a government effort to pass a law designed to combat foreign interference.

The cost of courting 12 federal politicians “shows you the investment that Huawei is putting into getting their message across to members of Parliament,” said Peter Jennings, the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

“Huawei stands out significantly ahead of anyone else simply because of the numbers of people that it’s taken to China,” he said.

Huawei provided business-class flights to its headquarters in Shenzhen, China, and paid for the politicians’ hotels, local travel, meals and other expenses. The report did not include the costs involved.

Among the politicians to make the trip were Julie Bishop, the foreign minister, and Steven Ciobo, the trade minister.

“We’re not saying that Huawei has done anything wrong,” said Fergus Hanson, head of the policy institute’s International Cyber Policy Center.

“It does point to whether or not politicians should be receiving all-expenses-paid trips from corporations,” he said, especially “around issues that involve sensitive national security questions.”

The report analyzed the top providers of federal politicians’ overseas travel using information lawmakers are required to disclose, including property, gifts and travel.

Huawei was followed by Fortescue Metals Group, an Australian company that paid for five trips, four of which were to China.

China was the most common destination for corporate-funded trips overseas.

Though the governing Liberal Party received seven of the 12 Huawei-sponsored trips, politicians from the opposition Labor Party took the most paid trips to China. Over the eight-year period, federal politicians received a total of 63 sponsored trips to China.

John Lord, the chairman of Huawei Australia, is scheduled to speak Wednesday to the National Press Club in Canberra. He is expected to call on Australian leaders to embrace Chinese telecommunications companies.

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