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In a move that will no doubt do little to help relations between China and Australia, the Defence Minister, Richard Marles, has announced that around 900 Chinese-made security cameras will be removed from government buildings following reports of security concerns.
The move comes on the tail of an article in The Canberra Times yesterday, and reports that the United States and the United Kingdom were both looking into the providence of their own security cameras.
Shadow cyber security minister James Paterson has been on the case for the last six months, requesting audits of a number of federal agencies. He found cameras made by Chinese companies Dahua and Hikvision were installed in nearly all government departments. Only the offices of the Prime Minister, the cabinet, and the Agriculture Department were found to be free of the Chinese hardware.
The Australian War Memorial is already removing its cameras, and Minister Marles has said more buildings and departments will follow suit.
“This is an issue — we’re doing an assessment of all the technology for surveillance within the Defence estate, and where those particular cameras are found, they’re going to be removed,” Marles told the ABC this morning.
“I don’t think we should overstate it, but it’s a significant thing that’s been brought to our attention and we’re going to fix it.”
Senator Paterson, always a hawk when it comes to Chinese influence in Australia, is pleased with the government’s decision to remove the cameras.
“I welcome the comments by the Defence Minister, Richard Marles, this morning,” Paterson told The Guardian. “That’s an appropriate response that they’re taking this seriously. I’m encouraged by that. This need not be a partisan issue at all. This is just a serious issue of national security. So, I hope the government swiftly acts on this information and removes these devices as soon as possible.”
According to Paterson, the Chinese cameras represent a two-fold problem.
“I have two concerns. One is a security concern. We have no way of knowing whether images, audio or other data collected by these devices are being sent back to China and handed over to Chinese intelligence agencies,” he said.
“But I also have a moral concern. These companies have been implicated in what the United Nations has called crimes against humanity, what others call genocide against the Uyghur people in Xinjiang. And I don’t think any Australian taxpayer dollars should be going to companies involved in these things.”
Paterson has previously voiced concerns over TikTok and possible privacy issues with the Chinese-owned social media service.
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