The Australian Census Debacle

Posted on Wed 08/10/2016 by


Bolt New 01By Andrew Bolt ~


Yesterday was Census Day here in Australia. For the first time in the long history of our Census, first carried out prior to 1900, and done every five years, this Census was carried out online. Luckily, I got in a little early and filled out mine during the afternoon. It seemed innocuous enough, and basically the same as for every other Census I have filled out. This one was easier, as with the earlier paperwork forms, it was done with a pen, and all of this one was basically just ‘click the box’. It took me around 15 minutes to complete, and the earlier paper forms usually took around an hour or so. I had no trouble logging in and the whole process went smoothly. Earlier, I had mentioned to my good lady wife that I could see a bit of a problem if so many people tried to login at around the same time, as this might place a huge load on the system, and that was basically the only reason I went in and filled mine out a few hours early, as did millions of other Australians, it seems. The problems which I envisaged did arise, and from about 9PM onwards, the talk had started on news releases that the system had indeed ‘crashed’, and stayed crashed for a number of hours, frustrating millions of people. Andrew Bolt continues below…..TonyfromOz.

So who will lose their job over this? The census now is largely ruined, and $10 million wasted:

ABS_logoTHE Australian Bureau of Statistics has blamed hackers for the embarrassing census website shutdown.

ABS chief statistician David Kalisch … said the census website was targeted by hackers four times yesterday in DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks in which hackers flood a server with automated traffic.

The ABS is now working with the Australian Signals Directorate to determine the source of the attack.

Was the hack attack to blame, though?

Technology commentator Trevor Long has another theory:

Well, hate to say I told you so, but – this was always going to happen…

When someone raised the prospect of issues with people connecting, the ABS wisely undertook to tender for services to “Load Test” the site and system…


So, let’s assume for the moment that in fact, 1,000,000 form submissions per hour was exactly what the site was tested for.  The above message from the ABS assumes they expected 500,000 submissions per hour.

Aren’t there 10,000,000 homes in Australia, so probably many more than that when you consider other institutions like hospitals etc?

Yep, 1,000,000 or more completed the census before Tuesday August 9.  Yep, lets say another 2,000,000 completed it during the day on Tuesday.

Let’s also assume another 2,000,000 are doing paper forms.  Heck, lets put another 2,000,000 into the “in the days after Tuesday” category.

That leaves 3,000,000 to complete it on Census night.  Did the ABS really think that number of submissions would be evenly spread over 6 hours?

What a joke.  Of course 7-9pm was going to be peak time.  Of course they were going to get millions of people each hour.  They simply didn’t expect it as the rest of us did.

This is a political disaster. True, the buck should stop with the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and the Turnbull Government is not directly involved in the managed of this. Yet it will wear the political responsibility, and the price will be high.

The Turnbull Government will have proved to millions it cannot run this.

It will have proved it cannot communicate.

It will have irritated millions of Australians by wasting their time.

It will have raised fresh doubts that the information is secure.

It will have a census whose data is incomplete and less likely to be a true snapshot of the country as of Tuesday night.

It will have a controversy that runs for days, given the political vacuum it has created by its paralysis.

It will have made a mockery of Turnbull’s talk of being “agile” and “innovative”.

So who will lose their job?

Andrew Bolt writes for the Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph, and The Advertiser and runs Australia’s most-read political blog. On week nights he hosts The Bolt Report on Sky News at 7pm and his Macquarie Radio show at 8pm with Steve Price.

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