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Australia is to remove security cameras made by firms linked to the Chinese Communist Party from its defence department buildings.

At least 913 cameras, intercoms, entry systems and video recorders made by Hikvision and Dahua are in government offices, including the defence and foreign affairs departments, said The Australian newspaper.

China‘s government partly owns the two companies and there are concerns the equipment could be used for spying.

Australia‘s defence minister, Richard Marles, said the use of surveillance technology within his department was currently being assessed.

He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC): “Where those particular cameras are found, they’re going to be removed.

“There is an issue here and we’re going to deal with it.”

An audit discovered that Hikvision and Dahua cameras and equipment were in almost every government department, apart from the agriculture department and the prime ministerial and cabinet departments.

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Cybersecurity spokesman for Australia’s opposition party, James Paterson, called on the government to urgently implement a plan to “rip every one of these devices out”.

“We would have no way of knowing if the sensitive information, images and audio collected by these devices are secretly being sent back to China against the interests of Australian citizens,” he added.

The US and Britain have made similar moves to stop using Chinese-made kit.

UK government departments were told to stop using it in “sensitive sites” last November.

It was also announced last year that the US government would ban equipment from several Chinese brands to protect its communications network.

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Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning criticised “wrongful practices that overstretch the concept of national security and abuse state power to suppress and discriminate against Chinese enterprises”.

In a briefing with reporters, she added: “We hope Australia will provide a fair and non-discriminatory environment for the normal operation of Chinese enterprises and do more things that are conducive to mutual trust and cooperation between the two sides.”

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