Hundreds of Chinese-made surveillance cameras installed in federal government buildings could be taken down in the interests of national security.
The Australian War Memorial has confirmed it will remove about a dozen cameras from its security systems over the coming months.
Fears are sweeping across government and the public sector that Chinese cameras could possibly have a dual purpose – one of them being as spying devices for the communist regime in Beijing.
Hikvision and Dahua branded cameras are the ones under scrutiny, with the War Memorial having at least 11 Hikvision devices set to be removed.
The cameras in question at the AWM are mounted externally to surveil the carparks and public areas at its Campbell and Mitchell precincts.
Five cameras will be removed this month, with the rest to be taken down by the middle of the year.
AWM chair Kim Beazley said the cameras were being removed out of an “abundance of caution” and not because anything towards had been noticed.
But he said useful intelligence could be gathered from the memorial if security was breached.
Other federal government agencies known to have the Chinese-made cameras installed include the National Disability Insurance Agency, Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Airservices Australia, and Treasury.
Some of these cameras are linked to computer networks, causing even greater concern that they could be hacked and breached.
At Treasury alone, there are 115 of the cameras installed across 13 sites.
This was revealed through questions on notice from Liberal Senator James Paterson.
When the numbers were revealed, Senator Paterson also asked: “Regarding the 115 devices, what are the types of devices that are installed at portfolio sites? Regarding the 13 sites, which sites have these devices installed?”
But no further information has been given from Treasury as yet.
Senator Paterson, who sits on the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security, has been dogged in pursuit of answers on this issue.
His scrutiny has sparked an audit across agencies to discover how far the Chinese-made cameras have infiltrated the Australian Public Service.
He welcomed news that the War Memorial is removing the cameras, but has called for all such cameras found to be ‘ripped out’ of any government buildings.
Shadow Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has also welcomed the intended removal of the Chinese cameras at the AWM and added that Australian-made cameras should be used as security devices, even at homes.
At the NDIA, more than 130 cameras will be replaced in the first quarter of this year, since it was revealed late last year that its offices in Geelong were installed with the Chinese-made systems.
The Government has advised that none of the Chinese devices have been found at any of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet sites.
British and United States governments have also recently halted the use of Chinese-made security devices on public buildings.
Intelligence experts globally have warned that the Chinese-made devices could be easily used as spyware, even if they appear to be turned off.