Australia removing China-made CCTV cameras from govt buildings

CANBERRA, 9 Feb 2023:

Australia is to remove almost 1,000 Chinese-made security cameras from government buildings “as soon as possible,” the country’s defence minister said today.

At least 913 security cameras manufactured by Chinese companies Hikvision and Dahua – linked to the Chinese Communist Party – have been found in an audit to be installed in some 250 government buildings, including the defence and foreign ministries.

“We’re doing an assessment within Defence as to where those cameras exist and when we’ve gone through that process we’ll obviously remove those,” defence minister Richard Marles told the media.

The cameras and security gear were found in almost every department except those of the prime minister, Cabinet and agriculture, public broadcaster ABC reported.

Since November, devices of these companies have been banned in all government buildings in the US and the UK due to possible espionage and spyware.

Shadow cyber security minister James Paterson, who carried out the audit, today demanded from the government an urgent plan to remove the devices – which he said present a national security risk.

However, the defence minister said he doesn’t “think we should overreact to this (…) it’s prudent that we do the assessment, and we’re going to act on it.”

He stressed the cameras are not a “political issue” involving the current administration as they were installed before the May election of the current Labor government.

Marles promised to remove the devices “as soon as possible,” without specifying a timeframe.

Australia and China have maintained a tense diplomatic relationship since the previous conservative government in 2018 vetoed Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE from participating in the country’s 5G network.

After this crisis, other frictions followed due to human rights issues, Chinese militarisation and Australian laws against espionage, after learning of Chinese donations to politicians and cyberattacks attributed to Beijing, among other things.

The current government, headed by prime minister Anthony Albanese, is turning foreign policy around and has been trying for months to approach positions with the Asian giant, Australia’s main trading partner.