Jacinda Ardern faces her 'Lange moment' over Huawei decision
Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/news/110722332/-

2019-02-23 17:22:10

OPINION: David Lange could smell the garlic on the French diplomat's breath. We could keep the Rainbow Warrior terrorists Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur in prison or we could sell butter to the European Union. Pick one, Prime Minister.

Idealists who obtain power inevitability get punched by reality. Jacinda Ardern, like Lange, is a sensation on the global stage and like Lange she's about to learn the impotence of oratory and charm when it comes to realpolitik.

Her government has bounced Spark's request to use Huawei infrastructure to roll out a new 5G network at the behest of the GCSB. Our spies are worried that the Chinese could join the former colleagues of Edward Snowden in scrolling through our browser histories.

This has irked Beijing and as a consequence $26 billion of trade with China is at risk. Once again a young Labour Prime Minister faces a choice between protecting our values and protecting our economy.

It is one she has to make only because of the incomprehensible failure of our security services. In order to prevent a theoretical security risk by using Chinese routers that will be obsolete in two years the GCSB have succeeded in antagonising our largest trading partner and exposed us to the risk of a ruinous trade war.

In terms of incompetence this makes the GCSB's illegal spying on Kim Dotcom seem benign. But let's not credit this decision merely to negligence because the proposed 5G rollout will render the Crown's $1.5bn investment in the ultrafast broadband worthless.

It is possible that the decision was designed to protect this asset. Which would put us in good company. The campaign against Huawei is being driven by protectionist forces in the United States.

China, like New Zealand, has laws that require infrastructure providers to build in the ability for the state to snoop on our communications.

Despite this, no hard evidence of a back door has yet been discovered and even if it did exist, it might not matter. After all the FBI were unable to crack the security on a store-bought iPhone in a recent terrorist case in San Bernardino, California.

Even if your data is being intercepted, it is possible to encrypt communications. This might surprise the GCSB, who still steam open envelopes and think WhatsApp is just a strange saying the cool kids use.

More importantly, let's assume Huawei was guilty. So what? Nothing China could learn from reading our emails or observing our porn preferences could do a fraction of the damage that dumping 500,000 tonnes of milk power into a crowded market would.

Ardern now faces her Lange moment and confront the realities and responsibilities of her office. It is time to walk the decision back, kowtow, and get back to the serious business of not building houses.

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