Almost half Australians are worried about the national security implications of tech transfer above potential benefits, Data: The Lowy Institute (Image credit: TechNode/Eliza Gkritsi)

Most Australians support Canberra’s decision to ban ZTE and Huawei from the development of 5G networks, according to an annual poll by a foreign policy think tank the Lowy Institute.

The Australian government banned the Chinese telecom giants in August, saying that using their technology would expose networks to to “foreign interference.”

“That decision appears to have gained the backing of many Australians,” the report said. The Lowy Institute polled 2,130 adults in March.

According to the 2019 poll, nearly half of Australians consider “protecting Australia from foreign state intrusion” a top priority when deciding on key technology suppliers. The balance of respondents were equally split between prioritizing the most sophisticated tech and keeping consumer prices low.

Traditionally, Australia has fostered a strong relationship with the US. Australia is also one of the Five Eyes, an intelligence alliance that also includes the US, UK, New Zealand, and Canada. Allies are granted access to classified US intelligence.

Since China became its largest trading partner in 2007, Australia has found itself closer to Beijing. China has made significant infrastructure investments in Australia, including building fiber optic cables and providing telecom equipment.

However, the investments have not engendered trust, as 79% of respondents said that these infrastructure projects are “part of China’s plans for regional domination” and a little over half, 52%, think that they are not good for the region.

Distrust in China has heightened this year, according to the survey, which said that “trust in and warmth towards China are at their lowest points in the poll’s history,” which began in 2005. Only 32% of those surveyed thought that Beijing would act responsibly on the global stage, down from 52% in 2018.

While fewer Australians trust China, they still recognize its importance. Half of respondents thought Australia should build a better relationship with the US even if it jeopardizes their relationship with China, while 44% said ties with Beijing should be a higher priority than Washington, the report said.

Australia’s closest ally, New Zealand, is on the fence about using Chinese suppliers for 5G networks and has announced it will carry out its own investigation.

Eliza was TechNode's blockchain and fintech reporter until July 2021, when she moved to CoinDesk to cover crypto in Asia. Get in touch with her via email or Twitter.

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