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Census Call-Off On Cards: IBM’s $9Mil. Payment In Doubt

Census Call-Off On Cards: IBM’s $9Mil. Payment In Doubt

Heads seem certain to roll in both government and business following the early failure of the largely online Australian Census, brought down – or at least forced to close – on Tuesday night by four denial-of-service attacks. And proposals for Australia to introduce online elections now seem likely to be put off indefinitely – indeed a News Corp group report has described such proposals as now “dead in the water”.

While no household information appears to have been hacked, it seems probable that the census will be called off, at least in its current format, for some months, perhaps until next year. Some observers believe a new team will have to be bought in to redesign the whole affair.

In the meantime rolling heads are likely to include the noggins of IBM Australia – which was awarded a $9 million contract to design, develop and implement the online census system, and may now struggle to collect most of the moola, or perhaps face a court case; the minister in charge of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Michael McCormack, 52; a number of mandarins and advisers within ABS – and ultimately perhaps even the PM himself.

Malcolm Turnbull’s hold on the prime ministership was already looking tenuous, following a number of disasters over which he has presided, including the long-delayed rollout and outdated technology of the NBN; the badly-timed double-dissolution election, which has seen the Government scramble home with just a one-seat lower-house majority and a heap of new dissidents in the Senate; – and now what’s being widely called #CensusFail.

Michael McCormack’s main title is Small Business Minister. A National Party member, he is a former journo and editor of the Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser, which didn’t prevent him stumbling over words yesterday when he claimed there had been “no attack” – see Stuart Corner report, page 1.

In fact ABS officials themselves were describing the incidents – accurately – as “attacks”. They said four denial-of-service incidents had been detected between 10am and 7.30pm Tuesday, as millions of Australians sought to log on to the site to fill out their census forms.

Only about 2.3 million forms had been successfully submitted and stored before the site was hurriedly shut down at 7.45pm on Tuesday – but it was 6.45am Wednesday before ABS publicly admitted it had been hit by DDoS attacks, something it was paying IBM $9 million to prevent.

Meanwhile Labor leader Bill Shorten has demanded a moratorium on fines for anyone who doesn’t fill out the census, as he lashed out at the Turnbull government’s “lackadaisical approach”. He also urged the Government to reconsider storing people’s names and addresses for a maximum 18 months – the previous practice – instead of four years, citing “legitimate” privacy concerns.– DF

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