Defence Minister Richard Marles has ordered the removal of Chinese surveillance cameras from sensitive Australian government buildings as part of a review.
He announced the inquiry today after an audit revealed nearly 1000 Chinese surveillance cameras were installed at government sites.
The technology is made by Hikvision and Dahua, which have links to the Chinese government.
“We’re doing an assessment of all the technology for surveillance within the defence estate and where those particular cameras are found, they’ll be removed,” Marles told the ABC.
“It’s a significant thing that’s been brought to our attention and we’re going to fix it – it’s obviously been there … for some time and predates us coming into office.”
The Defence Department said in the audit the total number of Chinese cameras was unknown but there was at least one.
Marles cautioned the Australian public shouldn’t overreact about the risk of sensitive data being fed to Beijing.
“It’s important that it’s been brought to our attention, it is prudent we do the assessment and act on it,” he told 9News.
Other western countries including the US and Britain have acted to remove Chinese cameras from their government buildings due to concerns they may contain spyware.
Shadow Cyber Security Minister James Paterson said today federal government buildings were “riddled” with the Chinese cameras and ministers needed to draw up plans for their removal.
Paterson issued questions to every federal agency after the Home Affairs Department was unable to say how many of the cameras or related systems were in federal government buildings.
“We urgently need a plan from the Albanese government to rip every one of these devices out of Australian government departments and agencies,” Paterson said.
The cameras and security equipment were found in nearly every department except Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Agriculture Department.
The audit showed the Attorney-General’s Department had 195 of the camera systems installed at 29 sites.
The number in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was not revealed but it had identified at least 28 sites potentially affected.
Paterson said he was concerned about how CCTV technology made by Hikvision and Dahua had been used in China by the communist government.
“Both Hikvision and Dahua have been directly implicated in shocking human rights abuses and mass surveillance of Uyghur minorities in Xinjiang in partnership with the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.
The government review came after the Australian War Memorial in Canberra said it was removing Chinese cameras.
Eleven surveillance cameras will be removed from the memorial by the middle of this year, the Canberra Times reports.
A spokesperson for the memorial told 9news.com.au it does not comment on specific security matters but it “takes its security obligations seriously”.
Acknowledgment of 9News article written on Feb 9, 2023 https://www.9news.com.au/national/chinese-cctv-cameras-removed-from-australian-war-memorial/7f2c4648-d096-43d6-95ea-a23b71e03601