Malcolm Turnbull Pleased Trump Is Making 5G Technology a Top Priority

April 28, 2019 Updated: April 28, 2019

Australia’s former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he is “pleased” that the United States will be giving “urgent priority” to developing its own 5G network to safeguard communication channels against cyberattacks.

In a speech to commemorate Anzac Day in New York on April 25, Turnbull highlighted that the United States and its allies have to date been out-competed in the field of 5G technology, and that there is now great urgency to prioritize its development for defending national security in the cyber sphere.

“Ferocious competition from the Chinese vendors on price and an absence of mind in Washington and other Five Eyes capitals has got us to the position where, when network security is more important than ever, there is not one 5G vendor from the United States or its Five Eyes allies,” Turnbull said.

“It is, frankly absurd, that in this arguably the most important enabling technology of our time, the United States and its closest allies like Australia are not leading players,” the 64-year-old said.

Turnbull said that when he was prime minister, he had encouraged U.S. President Donald Trump to “take the lead” and ensure that the United States or its Five Eyes partners has at least “one viable and secure 5G vendor” as an alternative to those currently offered by market leaders such as China’s Huawei.

“That’s why I was so pleased to see President Trump announced earlier this month that 5G is now a priority for his government to ensure U.S. companies got up to speed,” Turnbull said.

“President Trump appears to be making 5G a priority and in practical terms that will require a response form and cooperation with the telecommunications and technology sectors.

“It should be the highest and most urgent priority to retake American and Five Eyes leadership in this critical field.”

As prime minister, Turnbull banned tech giants Huawei and ZTE from Australia’s 5G networks on national security grounds before he was ousted by his party in August 2018 during a leadership crisis. His decision on Huawei and ZTE had been welcomed by the White House.

At the time, Turnbull said that his government did not want the country’s 5G networks “to be built out by companies that have an obligation to their own country to assist the intelligence services of those countries.”

“We have to, in an uncertain world, hedge against contingencies where people who we have friendly relations with, we may not necessarily be friends with in the future,” Turnbull explained.

Turnbull’s decision made Australia the first western nation to outlaw Huawei from its 5G networks, The Australian reported.

Discussions are currently underway in the White House about how best to encourage U.S. industry to take a leading role in 5G and effectively shut out China in the process.

Lawmakers have long considered issuing an executive order that would ban Huawei or other Chinese equipment from developing the networks with American telecoms companies.

But while the Trump administration has charged Huawei with violating sanctions against Iran and stealing trade secrets, and banned federally-funded bodies from purchasing telecom and surveillance equipment from blacklisted Chinese companies, it is yet to announce a blanket ban on Huawei and ZTE.

This month, Trump moved to make the process of developing and rolling out the networks mostly “private-sector driven and private-sector led,” which gives way for U.S. telco giants such as AT&T and Verizon to take the lead.

“Secure 5G networks will absolutely be a vital link to America’s prosperity and national security in the 21st century,” Trump said on April 12.

Trump added that 5G networks must be “guarded from the enemy—and we do have enemies out there.”