Defence Minister Richard Marles has ordered the removal of security cameras made by Chinese government-linked companies in Department of Defence buildings. It comes after an internal audit found there were at least 913 security devices being used across government buildings, including in Department of Defence and Treasury buildings. The Chinese Government has accused Marles of “over-stretching the concept of national security and abusing state power” through the measure.
In September last year, Liberal Senator James Paterson asked in Parliament about the use of surveillance equipment from Chinese Government linked companies Hikvision and Dahua in Federal Government buildings. The Department of Home Affairs couldn’t confirm how many cameras linked to these companies were being used. Paterson then launched an audit of Hikvision and Dahua equipment in Government buildings, with the findings of that audit released this week.
What did the audit find?
The audit found there were at least 913 Hikvision and Dahua devices in at least 254 buildings. This includes 195 in the Attorney General’s office, 154 in the Department of Climate Change and Energy, and 115 in the Treasury. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet had no equipment from Hikvision and Dahua on its premises.
The Department of Defence was found to have at least one Chinese Government linked piece of equipment on its premises. Defence Minister Richard Marles said that a further review would be conducted to determine the exact number of Chinese security devices being used in Defence buildings, before removing them all. “We do need to be thinking about the security of our Defence estate, and so we’re going through the process in a sober, calm way, and we’re going to remove what cameras exist.”
While Marles has said the surveillance equipment will be removed in Defence buildings, it isn’t entirely clear if other departments will be doing the same. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus is seeking advice from his Department on the possibility of inserting a Government-wide ban on the Chinese equipment.