The Australian government will inspect surveillance technology installed in offices of the defence department as it has been reported that Chinese-made cameras pose a security threat, Defence Minister Richard Marles said on Thursday.
The inspections come after Britain urged its government departments, in November, to avoid installing Chinese-made surveillance cameras at important buildings. Some states in the US have stopped vendors and products from many Chinese technology companies.
In an interview with an Australia-based public radio, ABC Radio, Marles said, “This is an issue… we’re doing an assessment of all the technology for surveillance within the defence (department) and where those particular cameras are found, they are going to be removed.”
Opposition lawmaker James Paterson said his own inspection found around 1,000 units of devices by two partially state-owned Chinese companies, Hangzhon Hikivision Digital Technology and Dahua Technology Co., were set up in over 250 Australian government offices.
Paterson, the shadow minister for cyber security and countering foreign interference, advised the government to take immediate action to uninstall Chinese cameras.
Marles called the issue important but also added, “I don’t think we should overstate it.”
Hikivision said it was “categorically false” to view the firm as a threat to Australia’s national security as it could not get the video data of end users, control end-user databases or sell cloud storage in Australia.
In response, a spokesperson emailed, “Our cameras are compliant with all applicable Australian laws and regulations and are subject to strict security requirements.”
On Wednesday, Australian media reported that the national war memorial in Canberra removed thousands of Chinese-made security cameras set up on the property due to spying concerns.
Australia and China have been urging to resolve diplomatic relations that were disrupted in 2018 when Australia decided to ban Chinese tech hub Huawei from its 5G broadband network.
The countries’ relations were more damaged by the Australian action to investigate the origins of COVID-19.
In response, China levied taxes on many Australian products.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he was disinterested in China’s reaction to disposing of its cameras.
He told reporters, “We act in accordance with Australia’s national interest. We do so transparently and that’s what we will continue to do.”