The Australian government today all but admitted that Chinese hackers had stolen the blueprints of a new spy agency headquarters in the capital of Canberra. So far it has been avoiding comment on news reports of its new intelligence headquarters being leaky.
''These events did take place some time ago,'' senior opposition lawmaker George Brandis told Sky News television after a confidential briefing with Australian Security Intelligence Organisation officials.
''I can say this is a very serious matter; ASIO has dealt with it; beyond that I'm not sure that there's a lot I can say.''
The A$630 million ($608 million) building housing the headquarters of Australia's main spy agency is near completion in the national capital.
Australian Broadcasting Corp television had reported on Monday night that a cyberattack on a building contractor exposed plans such as communications cabling, server locations and security systems and was traced to a Chinese server.
The government has refused to discuss specifics on the matter. When Prime Minister Julia Gillard told Parliament the ABC report was ''inaccurate'' on Tuesday, she refused to go into any detail.
Brandis later demanded and got a confidential briefing with ASIO director-general David Irvine. And while he wouldn't discuss what was said, he disputed Gillard's statement.
''She said the allegations are false; that claim is wrong,'' Brandis said. His is a minority party but plays an essential role in the government.
The government responded by criticising Brandis for discussing in the media a confidential security briefing.
The ABC news reported that China could use the blueprints to bug the building.
The lakeside glass and concrete structure was to be completed in 2012, but has faced construction delays and cost blowouts since it was initially budgeted to cost AU$460 million.
Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, the minister in charge of the spy agency, said ASIO will move in this year.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China opposed hacking in any form and questioned what evidence the ABC report relied on.
''Since it is technically untraceable, it is very difficult to find the source and identify the hacker,'' Hong said. ''Therefore we have no idea what is the evidence for their report in which they make the claim with such certainty.''
He said countries needed to cooperate to fight hacking. ''Groundless accusations won't solve the problem,'' Hong said.