In this Sept. 26, 2018, photo, a staff member uses a laptop computer at a display for 5G wireless technology from Chinese technology firm Huawei at the PT Expo in Beijing. A spy chief said in a speech released Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, that Australia's critical infrastructure including electricity grids, water supplies and hospitals could not have been adequately safeguarded if Chinese-owned telecommunications giants Huawei and ZTE Corp. had been allowed to become involved in rolling out the nation's 5G network. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
INTERNATIONAL - Australia must restrict foreign firms with government ties from its 5G mobile communications network, because it is critical infrastructure, the head of one of the country’s intelligence agencies said, helping to explain why China’s Huawei was banned. 

Australia expanded its national security rules in August to exclude telecommunication equipment suppliers that it believes have ties to foreign governments. Huawei Technologies said after the policy announcement that it would be prohibited from Australia’s new broadband network. The events soured bilateral relations between Canberra and China. 

“5G technology will underpin the communications that Australians rely on every day, from our health systems and the potential applications of remote surgery, to self-driving cars and through to the operation of our power and water supply,” Mike Burgess, director-general of the Australian Signals Directorate, said late on Monday. 

“A potential threat anywhere in the network will be a threat to the whole network,” he said in a speech that did not mention Huawei or any other firm by name. A spokesperson for Huawei did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

The company has previously denied it answers to the Chinese government. Speaking in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said co-operation between Chinese and Australian companies was win-win, and Australia should not put up barriers to this. 

“We urge the Australian side to abandon ideological prejudices and create a fair competition environment for Chinese companies’ operations in Australia. We hope Australia handles this issue with caution,” Lu added. Huawei had offered Canberra access to its technology to satisfy security concerns, while it also argued the company structure hadn’t changed since it was allowed to supply equipment to Australia’s 4G network. Western intelligence agencies have raised concerns for years that Huawei, the world’s largest maker of telecommunications network gear, is beholden to the Chinese government.