Bad decisions lie behind census debacle

Bad decisions lie behind census debacle, by Robert Gottliebsen.

Around Australia this week the chief executives and directors of our big banks, telecommunications companies and others that are driven by the internet sent out an urgent call to their technical people:

“Could the raids that shut down the census on Tuesday be conducted against our business?”

The CEOs/directors I spoke to received their replies very quickly: “No, no a thousand times no.”

Census fail website

But modern anti-attack mechanisms have overcome disruptions like the apparent flooding of the census site with demand. They structure their sites so there are thousands of duplicated entry points (please excuse me if I have oversimplified the explanation) and those defence mechanisms must have been known by IBM.

The botch-up of only allowing for enough servers to process one million forms an hour when plainly the peak would be around three million was bad, and speaks to carelessness or stupidity at the highest levels of the ABS. I’ll bet many techies pointed out the problem at various stages, but were ignored or shut out.

But the real crime is the cover up — the parade of public servants and government ministers on the ABC and massive salaries, either not understanding the traffic jam they created or massively trying to distract attention from the bungle long enough for public attention to move on. Either way, this incident is an indictment of our permanent government. Why can’t they be held accountable? We need a new system.