Whaleoil transcript: Mike Hosking & Jacinda Ardern on Huawei & China

Mike Hosking.
Audio starts at 7:19

Mike

Prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is with us for Tuesday morning ? good morning to you.

Jacinda

Good morning.

Mike

The GCSB and the NCSC, what do they see that we don?t or vice versa, as regards Huawei?

Jacinda

Yeah, so just to give a little bit of context, um? over in the UK they have um? a Huawei cybersecurity evaluation and oversight board. Now they are expected to release their annual monitoring reports soon. They haven?t done so yet, um? but ah? there?s been some talk um? in the UK around mitigation over security concerns with Huawei. Keep in mind they?ve actually got a wider piece of work that is still ongoing so I don?t think it?s um… fair to characterise that there has been a conclusion yet.

But coming back to um? New Zealand, we have our own process for ah? assessing um? security issues when there?s ah… the option of moving into a new network as we?ve had an application from Spark to do so. Ah? the GCSB undertakes analysis independent of us; we don?t have politics involved in this process. Ah… they?ve gone back to Spark and said there are some concerns here, it is now up to you to mitigate those. And so that?s where in New Zealand we are up to.

Mike

But when you say – when you say our own process, it’s basically we are working out whether they are spies or not. Do you know what the GCSB?s problem is, specifically?

Jacinda

Ah… look, I don?t discuss national security issues.

Mike

No, I know you don?t discuss ? do you know?

Jacinda

I am not going to get into a ruling-in or -out. What I will put emphasis on, though, Mike, is that this process is handled by the GCSB. This is not one where ministers are sitting here dictating?

Mike

I get all of that, but do you know – you don?t have to tell us – but do you know what their problem is specifically?

Jacinda

I…I do not discuss security issues, including what I do and don?t know, Mike.

Mike

Because although our process might be literally different, the outcome is exactly the same, and that is whether a company gets to operate in our country versus Britain, whether or not this becomes political because a government leans on us etc.

Jacinda

Yeah, and the UK already is in a different position with its? ah? with Huawei than we are as well, so I am not sure it?s a straight comparison. But it is fair to say that our ah? both our bureaus do? ah… you know? talk to each other, share information, but we have an independent process in New Zealand regardless. Just like we have an independent process from the United States. And for good reason. We have to protect our own national interest, our own data security for our own New Zealanders and of course we maintain an independent foreign policy. So I think people would expect that.

Mike

Is this British pushback as regards Five Eyes against the American stance which is basically anti-Huawei?

Jacinda

Oh, look, again, I… I don?t know if it?s fair to characterise the UK as having completed their process. I?ve seen statements?.

Mike

It seems, for all intents and purposes, they?ve made up their mind.

Jacinda

Well look, it?s for them to determine that, but I?ve seen spokespeople come out and say that they – that they have not finished their process. But look that regardless, actually, um… we are still in the middle of ours. Ah?

Mike

When you say the middle, who?s doing what?

Jacinda

GCSB have advised Spark that it?s up to them now to mitigate against some of the concerns they’ve raised.

Mike

And are Spark doing that as we speak?

Jacinda

Oh, that would be a question for Spark. I?m not familiar with what response?.

Mike

Well, when do you expect this to get sorted out, one way or another?

Jacinda

Again, this is something the GCSB has gone back to. The ball is now in the ven… the applicant?s court.

Mike

Ah, as regards China and their role in it, and Huawei, and the whole thing and Sanford and MFAT: on a scale of 1-10, and I know there are difficulties with China historically, but say we – we set it at a five. Five’s our normally trav… normal travelling speed with our relationship with China; where is it currently at?

Jacinda

Oh, look, you know Mike, obviously there?s some complexities here, we are discussing very openly some of the challenges that exist in the relationship, um? but for me, I?m always going to base it on? on what?s happening in reality, and as well, we?ve gone back and asked about their concerns at the border. Of course, it?s our duty to make sure we know about those?

Mike

Is the border good?

Jacinda

Yeah, it is actually. It?s in? it?s in um… pretty? pretty good heart. 28 billion dollars? worth of trade flowing between us?

Mike

Yeah but that?s… that’s historic. You?re running historic numbers at us. This is a… this is a story that?s come in the last? does Sanford, for example, have a problem or not?

Jacinda

If you let me finish my sentence, I can give you the data from January. Um? so just to give you a baseline, last year for our consignments there were issues at the border, and you know, legitimate issues around, you know, paperwork being filed properly and so on. So roughly there were 0.26% of consignments. In January it was roughly 0.29%, so pretty statistically insignificant given the scale of our?

Mike

But given the story is only a couple of weeks old, i.e. we are in February, you would expect nothing untoward in February when those numbers eventually come though.

Jacinda

Which is why we?ve gone back and said to officials at the border, ?Anything now going on that you want to raise concerns around??  And nothing? nothing that seems out of the ordinary. And we will stay in touch with business in that regard too.M

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