Prime Minister points finger at IBM and public servants

From a painfully oblivious tweet — to finger-pointing in a matter of days; Prime Minister Malcolm Turnball demonstrated how 'v easy' it is to pump out propaganda one minute, and blaming the very same staff who did everything within their power to make the infamous online Census possible, the next.


It's fair to assume that Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull has a bevy of specialists at his disposal who monitor his social media presence and tweet, post and comment on his behalf, but this does not excuse the sheer ignorance with which either he, or his team, tweeted this puff-tweet early Tueday morning.

Did the PM expect his fellow Australian's to be up-and-eager at 1:17AM to beat the rush as he did? Or was this a very poorly timed scheduled tweet, sent out ahead of the furor so that PM and Co. could pat themselves on the back for playing their part before the hard-yards had even begun?

This tweet calls into question both the genuine nature of the tweet, its authenticity and the agenda behind it. 'Census night' was officially supposed to be the evening of Tuesday, 9th August so why was the PM so eager to get ahead of the crowd? Could he have been spooked by the warnings the staff at the ABS had been issueing for months in advance of the launch?

Whatever the rationale, the timing conveniently allowed the PM to v easily jump off the Census band-wagon in the days that followed.

‘Heads will roll’: PM shifts Census blame to IBM and public servants

In an early morning interview today, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shifted the blame for the Census debacle to private sector contractors as political reality begins to take shape.

“I too am very angry about this. I am bitterly disappointed about this. This has clearly been a failure on the part of the [Australian Bureau of Statistics], absolutely a failure on the part of the ABS,” the PM said.

“I know there are lots of people out there trying to find out who’s to blame and you know, which heads should roll and so forth; my objective as the prime minister is to ensure that we … that we get this site back.

“Which heads we roll, where and when is something that will follow.”

Millions of Australians were unable to complete the Census and many were, initially, questioning the integrity of the data already housed by the ABS.

Describing the attacks as “predictable”, Turnbull asked why sufficient steps hadn’t been taken to repel the attacks: “They weren’t because of failures in the system that has been put in place for ABS by IBM.”

The ABS technology partner in the 2016 Census was IBM, a content partner of The Mandarin. So far the company has made no statement.

While many of the so-called experts and the minister who faced the media yesterday clearly didn’t understand the nature of a DDoS attack, Turnbull has been properly briefed:

“Measures that ought to have been in place to prevent these denial of service attacks interfering with access to the website were not put in place — that is a fact, that was a failure … that was a failure that was compounded by some failures in hardware — technical hardware failures — and inadequate redundancy.”

Turnbull said the IBM had been contracted to do this work before, “but there has clearly been a failure in the work that was done.”

Turnbull advised the Census website should be back online later on Thursday.

Misinformation contributed to takedown

The PM also revealed the final decision to take the site offline after the “confluence of events” including the DDoS attacks was a reaction to some “traffic … that appeared to be anomalous” but in the end, was normal and not malicious.

“Actually it was quite innocent, it turned out, but that caused the ABS to take the site down,” Turnbull said.

Kalisch tells staff to be transparent

After the Census is back on track, later today the PM hopes, the ABS will also have to manage the fallout on its own staff morale and direction.

According to our sister publication Crikey, Chief Statistician David Kalisch held an all-staff session today. He told staff the whole incident was “unfortunate” and reiterated public comments that the privacy controversies had made the ABS a target.

He told staff the ABS aimed to be as transparent as possible about the whole disaster. The site will only be restored once given the all-clear by Australian Signals Directorate, IBM and ABS management.

In an email to staff, deputy Australian statistician Trevor Sutton offered ABS staff counselling over the fallout, and said they should be prepared for it to impact on their personal lives:

“As you engage with our stakeholders, providers, users and community members in the coming days,
no doubt these challenges will be mentioned and some people may be disappointed, annoyed, frustrated and even angry.
Others, of course, will be more considerate.”

Source: The Mandarin  


The CPSU says the highly qualified and dedicated staff at the Australian Bureau of Statistics must not be blamed for the decisions by the Turnbull Government that are the real cause of Tuesday night’s Census debacle.

The union’s National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “Our members working in the ABS have slugged their guts out for months to make this Census work despite multiple Government decisions that have caused major problems. They know how critical the information collected in the Census is to the nation and they’re absolutely gutted at the damage done to the ABS's reputation and the Census itself.”

“Staff saw these problems coming a mile off. There are 700 fewer staff at the ABS now than when the last Census was conducted five years ago and as a result staff are suffering under massive workloads. Critical planning time was lost as the Government foolishly considered axing the Census, chopped and changed ministers three times and dilly-dallied for nearly a year in appointing a new chief statistician.”

“It’s shameful that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said ‘heads will roll’ at the ABS over the Census while taking no responsibility for the real cause of this debacle, the decisions made by his Government.”

“It is Governments that are responsible for the reliability of public services and the Turnbull Government cannot dodge responsibility for slashing budgets and jobs. Prime Minister Turnbull should be apologising not finger pointing.”

“This situation in the ABS is just one example of how cuts to public sector staffing and capacity have gone too far, and how it’s ultimately the Australian public that suffers as a result. Australians are struggling to get through on the Census hotline today, but that’s no less disturbing than the one in three calls to Medicare and Centrelink that go unanswered every day.”

“The dedication of ABS staff has ensured the Census has played a critical role in public policy in Australia for more than a century. It remains an important tool and we are urging Australians to participate despite the Government’s failings.”

Source: CPSU 

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