There are doubts Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei will be able to deliver a $205 million contract for Perth's rail network after the United States brought criminal charges against the company.
The privately-owned company won a contract in July to build and maintain a 4G communications system for the Public Transport Authority.
Planning minister Rita Saffioti says the West Australian government is seeking advice about whether Huawei can still deliver the project given the company uses technology components from the US, which may be subject to trade sanctions.
“We’re seeking assurances and also getting clarification about the ability of the contract to be delivered,” she told 6PR radio on Wednesday.
Ms Saffioti said only two companies made it through the entire tender process and “the other one had probably more difficulties” than Huawei and likely could not deliver the project.
Opposition transport spokeswoman Liza Harvey said the minister never took the matter to cabinet and described the situation as a “complete debacle”.
“The minister must explain why a mobile phone platform for a train system cannot be provided by any other company but Huawei,” she told reporters.
Ms Harvey asserted it was not in the public interest to continue with the contract and the government should seek to re-tender.
She said freedom of information documents showed Huawei had been tasked with building a communication grid across the entire metropolitan area despite not being cleared by national security agencies, as the state government has repeatedly insisted.
“The grid will be used for the automatic control of trains, for a dedicated emergency communication system in a time of crisis and for transmitting classified information,” she said.
But a government spokesman said the automatic train control project was separate to the radio systems replacement project.
“Should the ATC project proceed, then the government will ensure there is an appropriate level of security and it will ensure that the ATC will not be compromised,” he said.
Huawei Australia chairman John Lord said he was not worried about losing the contract.
“This WA transport project is our number one priority,” he told ABC radio.
Mr Lord said the Chinese government had never directed or asked Huawei to gather information for intelligence purposes.
The US has charged Huawei and its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou over allegations it violated trade sanctions, lied to banks and stole technology, which the company denies.