PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
THURSDAY, 11 AUGUST 2016
SUBJECT/S: 2016 Census.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Before he became Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull sold himself as Australia's number one 'techspert'. But when something goes wrong, Malcolm Turnbull's the last to accept responsibility. He says today that he's "very angry" about a problem that was “entirely avoidable”.
Mr Turnbull, if it was "entirely avoidable" what steps did you take in order to avoid it?
Australians don't want to see their Prime Minister getting angry; they want to see their Prime Minister getting on with the job. Taking responsibility when things go wrong. Frankly, if there was the sport of duck-shoving, this Government would get gold, but in the sport of ministerial accountability they wouldn't even make the final.
Right now the response rate for the Australian Census is sitting at around 10 per cent, with website still not back online as I'm speaking to you. In the last Census, the response rate was 96 per cent. In the Census before that – also about 96 per cent. If this Census has a response rate that falls well short of 96 per cent, then that's going to have adverse impacts on every Australian community.
The Australian Census data is used to improve Australia in a host of ways. It shapes the funding that we supply to schools. It shapes fiscal policy through the Inter-Generational Report. It helps us track how we're going on the Closing the Gap targets. It informs homelessness policy and housing policy. When local councils or state governments are deciding where to take a new train route, or bus route, its Census data that they use. When communities are deciding where to locate a childcare centre, that's Census data they turn to as well. So many aspects of Australia's public policy will be harmed if this Census has a low response rate.
Right now, rather than just showing Australians how angry he can get, Malcolm Turnbull needs to start answering some questions. He needs to start answering the questions of whether the protocols for this Census when to Cabinet, when they went to Cabinet, and what questions were asked. He needs to answer to Australians – what preparations were put in place to ensure the first online Census was a success. And what contingency plans were put in place in case things went wrong.
Let's remember, denial of service attacks have been occurring for at least sixteen years, so they were an entirely expected event. The Turnbull Government attempted to cut the Census, and then under at least three ministers over the last year, they attempted to ignore the Census. And now they're surprised when the Census has gone wrong. Rather than getting cross, they need to start answering some questions.