Minister Yvette D'Ath has denied Chinese coders would have been able to access the Queensland electoral roll. Photographer: Liam Kidston
Minister Yvette D'Ath has denied Chinese coders would have been able to access the Queensland electoral roll. Photographer: Liam Kidston

Chinese work for Electoral Commission a security risk: MP

The safety of electoral information has been called into question after the Queensland government used a Chinese-owned company to support ­administrative processes at local government elections.

Herbert MP Phillip Thompson lashed out at Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath, labelling the move "reckless" and "concerning".

In early 2018, the Electoral Commission of Queensland signed a deal with Konnech to create a new management system that would feed vote counts ­directly to a website.

While the coding system was almost complete in time for the March 2020 local government elections, the pandemic threw a spanner in the works as most of the company's coders were based in Wuhan, China.

Member for Herbert Phillip Thompson is very concerned about the potential data breaches. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Member for Herbert Phillip Thompson is very concerned about the potential data breaches. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Mr Thompson said the use of Chinese-based coders to write software for the commission was "a serious compromise to our nation's sovereignty".

"It is unacceptable that the personal details of millions of Queenslanders could be ­exposed to China," he said.

The complaint follows ongoing tensions with China, which have included the British government asking Japan to help build its 5G wireless network without involving Chinese company Huawei Technologies.

In 2018, the Australian government also banned the Chinese company's involvement in its 5G rollout.

But Ms D'Ath told state parliament there was no threat to Queenslanders' personal data.

"Recent media reports claiming that offshore coders are able to access sensitive electoral data are false," she said.

"All data within the election management system, including election results and elector details, is stored in an Australian-based cloud system to the certified standard of our foremost cybersecurity agency, the Australian Signals Directorate, and is suitably secure."

Townsville City Council election votes being counted. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Townsville City Council election votes being counted. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Ms D'Ath said the administrative system supported the process of conducting electoral events.

"It does not conduct electronic voting, count votes, or determine election outcomes," she said.

"I have been advised that Konnech Australia does not have access to the electoral roll.

"However, any person in Queensland can access the electoral roll at an Electoral Commission Queensland ­office."

But Mr Thompson called for the contract to be terminated and awarded to an Australian company.

"We know the influence that China has tried to get through the Pacific," Mr Thompson said.

The federal government was criticised for its decision to use US-based company Amazon for the COVIDSafe app, but Mr Thompson said this was a different situation.

"The positive relationship we've had with the United States and with Amazon through different (security projects ensures their safety)," Mr Thompson said.

"I do not believe Queensland people's data is safe through this company."

Originally published as Chinese work for Electoral Commission a security risk, MP claims



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