The federal government has committed to removing Chinese-made security cameras at government buildings across Australia, admitting there is a potential security problem that needs to be addressed.
An audit of surveillance equipment, conducted by the shadow cybersecurity minister, James Paterson, has confirmed that more than 900 products built by Chinese companies Hikvision and Dahua are installed at government locations.
The US and the UK have already banned these products at government locations, with the US Federal Communications Commission warning of an “unacceptable risk to national security” due to possible espionage and spyware.
Australia’s defence minister, Richard Marles, confirmed that an audit of surveillance technology has been launched after reports at least 913 cameras have been installed at more than 250 governments buildings.
“Where those particular cameras are found, they’re going to be removed,” Marles told ABC Radio on Thursday. “There is an issue here and we’re going to deal with it.
“I don’t think we should overstate it but I think it is right to be doing the assessment and making sure that we deal with that and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Marles said significant issues had been identified and the federal government was determined to “fix” them, although he didn’t give a timeline.
“That [risk has] obviously been there, I might say, for some time and predates us coming into office but, that said, it’s important that we go through this exercise and make sure that our facilities are completely secure,” Marles said.
Anthony Albanese said he did not believe removing the cameras would have an impact on diplomatic relations with China.
“We act in accordance with Australia’s national interest, we do so transparently, that’s what we’ll continue to do,” the prime minister told reporters at a press conference in Canberra.
Paterson’s audit conducted revealed that there are 195 Chinese-made surveillance devices used by the Attorney General’s Department across 29 locations. There are 154 more at the Department of Climate Change and Energy and 134 more at social services offices.
“ASIO Director General Mike Burgess has said the data collected by Hikvision and Dahua cameras ‘and where it would end up and what else it could be used for, would be of great concern to me and my agency’,” Paterson said.
“Our Aukus partners and closest security allies, the United States and UK, announced in November 2022 that they were banning the devices from all government buildings because of the national security threat that they pose.”
Paterson has also raised concerns there may be Hikvision and Dahua cameras inside Parliament House, noting that he had not received confirmation from the Department of Social Services.
On Wednesday the newly appointed chair of the Australian War Memorial, Kim Beazley, confirmed that several Chinese-made security cameras would be removed from the location in “an abundance of caution”.