Was the ABS’s rush to take the Census online its downfall?

census 2Two weeks on and the 2016 census is still one of the biggest discussed debacles in Australia for 2016.  

From its opening date, on the 9th of August, it has been issue after issue.

First starting with households not even receiving their census logins on time, to the online survey being shut down on the night, to finally issues with the paper forms being sent back to each household.

Local experts of the Central West have detailed various reasons why they believe the site went down.

The reoccurring issue being the adverse affects of cost cutting in the ABS.

It was thought by bringing the Census online it would make the process easier for citizens as well as save the government money – but instead it has become an even bigger headache in the tedious process.

Ray Wilson, a regional organiser for the Australian Manufacturing Worker’s Union Victoria Branch, believes the site would not have crashed if there was more staff working at the ABS.

“I’m a trade unionist and I am appalled that that 710 people were axed from the department and really I’m fuming.”

“We need the public service. Yes everything is going online. Brilliant, but we need the people to man it.”

The Australian government has been planning to update the system for awhile now, but this rush to move online seems to have sidelined privacy and job security concerns.

Rod Bloomfield, former candidate for the Nick Xenophon team in Clare, believes the rush to modernise was what brought the whole system crashing down.

“They got to this point too soon and pushed too hard for an online experience when it comes to the census and we saw the result of that.”

“I think inevitably all of this stuff will be online, I think we’ll be voting for state and federal elections online eventually but everything has to be tested and it has to take time.”

The Chief Statistician at the ABS, David Kalisch said the site was taken down after 7:30pm to ensure the ‘integrity of the data’.

This decision was made after the server received 4 denial of service attacks. However even after the decision was made to shut down the system, the Census social media websites were still telling people to log on and make a difference.




While authorities have reassured the two million Australian’s who completed their forms before the system crash that their data is safe, many are still distressed about the intrusive nature of the census and having shared all this information online.

Wendy Mason for the Western Research Institute says that without accurate statistics and information from the ABS it becomes very difficult for organisations such as the WRI to assist in decision making that best suits their regions.

“The census really relies on people filling out their census correctly, whether its online or paper  and giving as much information that is reflective of their current situation.”

“If people fill out the data correctly, it actually means that planners researchers, people who need to use that ABS data will be able to do that knowing that it is a fuller, more accurate set of data.”

Currently, the WRI is working on decisions for the Western regions of NSW. These decisions will reflect the growing ageing population. Mrs Mason says, without more recent data it limits their understanding of the region and could ultimately affect major decisions in the next coming months.

An enquiry into the “cyber attacks” is underway says the Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, to put Australians at ease.

In the meantime the ABS is still encouraging Australians to complete their census before September 23rd.

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