Huawei has worked hard to enhance its political and other connections outside China. According to Eric Anderson of the National Intelligence University in Washington DC, Huawei Chairman Ren Zhengfei already knew how to ‘play the political game in Canberra’ when he opened his first Australian office in Sydney in 2004. The Chairman of Huawei in Australia is retired Australian rear admiral, John Lord. The former Coalition government foreign minister Alexander Downer and former Labor premier of Victoria John Brumby are two of the directors on its Australian board.
To bolster its positive image in Australia, Huawei sponsored the Canberra Raiders rugby league team in March 2012. Australian newspapers reported that Dennis Richardson — a long-time Raiders fan and then Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and now Secretary of Defence — had facilitated the deal. Richardson’s office denied this.
In September 2012, Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull announced that, if elected, a Coalition government would review the decision against Huawei’s participation in the National Broadband Network that is being constructed in Australia. This would be on the grounds that while in opposition, the Liberal Party had not been ‘privy to the security intelligence advice that the government has had’. It is impossible to know how much influence as a Huawei lobbyist Alexander Downer might have had on Liberal Party policy towards the Chinese company. Only one thing is certain: Turnbull is not a Canberra Raiders fan (he supports the Sydney Roosters).