POLITICS

'Angry' Malcolm Turnbull Warns ABS And IBM Over Census Fiasco

The PM expects 'heads will roll' over #CensusFail.

11/08/2016 9:05 AM AEST | Updated 11/08/2016 11:47 AM AEST
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AP Photo/Rick Rycroft
Not happy, Mal.

CANBERRA – An "angry and bitterly disappointed" Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull expects "heads will roll" over the 2016 Census website debacle, citing serious failures on the part of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and systems provider IBM.

The ABS is yet to bring the Census website back online more than a day after hackers hit it with a series of distributed denial of Service (DDoS) attacks throughout Tuesday which lead to the site overloading and suffering hardware failures.



ABS Census

Just over 2 million Australians were able to complete their online census forms before the site was forcibly crashed by the ABS at 7.45pm Tuesday to protect data.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has Thursday described the Census as "one of the biggest shambles in government we have ever seen."

It's now known that the Prime Minister was informed about the Census dramas during Tuesday evening, many hours after the problems with the Census website began. Turnbull even tweeted at 7.17pm that things were going smoothly with Census night.

Thousands of Australians have been unable to complete their Census forms and the fiasco has been ridiculed on social media.

"I too am very angry about this. I am bitterly disappointed about this," Turnbull told Macquarie Radio's 2GB.

"This has clearly been a failure of the part of the ABS."

"Measures that ought to have been in place to prevent these denial of services attacks were not put in place."

The Labor Leader suggests the Prime Minister look closer to home.

"Yet again we see Malcolm Turnbull failing to take responsibility. His failure to take responsibility is a failure of leadership," he told reporters in Melbourne.

"It's his job to make sure that everyone else in the government does their job properly. Now he is just lashing out."

A review of the outage is now underway, and the Privacy Commissioner is investigating, while work continues to restart the five yearly Census. The site is expected to be back up and running later Thursday

Pressed by host Alan Jones, Turnbull indicated that the ABS and the systems provider for the census, IBM should have prepared better.

"There are lots of people out there trying to find out who's to blame and which heads should roll and so forth," he said.

"My objective is as the Prime Minister is to ensure that we have the best brains in the Australian Government in this area at the Australian Signals Directorate, formerly the Defence Signals Directorate, that they are absolutely all over this problem."


While the eCensus software is managed in-house, the ABS chose to outsource the eCensus hosting to IBM Australia, at a cost of $9.6m. Melbourne-based firm Revolution IT was awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars this year to perform 'load testing', to determine the system's resiliency.

"The denial of service attacks were completely predictable, should have been repelled readily. They weren't because of failures in the system which has been put in place for ABS by IBM."

"There are issues for IBM and ABS about that."

The government's special adviser on cyber security, Alistair McGibbon, insists no personal data has been lost or stolen.

"The ABS is being abundantly cautious in terms of making sure the right systems are in place, and obviously it has our attention this hasn't been the greatest week for us," he told the ABC.

"There that's some good learnings we can apply. The vast bulk of the time we handle these denial of services really well. We just didn't in this case."

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