Defence Minister Richard Marles announced on Thursday that the Australian government will look into the surveillance systems in use at the defence department’s offices following accusations that cameras there installed by Chinese manufacturers posed a security concern.
The checks follow a request from Britain to its government departments in November to halt installing surveillance cameras with Chinese connections at important locations, citing security concerns. Several Chinese technology companies’ vendors and goods are prohibited in some US states.
This is a problem, and we’re evaluating all the surveillance technology used by the defence department. If we find any of those specific cameras, we’ll remove them.
Almost 1,000 pieces of equipment manufactured by Dahua Technology and Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, two partially state-owned Chinese companies, were installed in more than 250 Australian government buildings, according to opposition politician James Paterson.
The government was urged by Paterson, the shadow minister for cyber security and preventing foreign interference, to immediately come up with a strategy to get rid of all such cameras.
Marles acknowledged the importance of the problem but added, “I don’t think we should dramatise it.”
Hikvision claimed that portraying the company as a danger to Australia’s national security was “categorically incorrect” given that it was unable to access end-user video footage, administer end-user databases, or offer cloud storage services there.
A spokesman responded via email, saying that “our cameras are subject to high security measures and are compliant with all applicable Australian laws and regulations.”
Requests for comment from Dahua Technology did not immediately receive a response.
In answer to a query regarding Australia’s review of the cameras at a regular briefing, China’s foreign ministry pleaded with Australia to create “a fair environment” for Chinese businesses.