'Total chaos, confusion': O'Dowd hits out at own party over census

"CHAOS" and "confusion" were the words Flynn member Ken O'Dowd used to describe this year's census survey.

The move to online for 16 million Australian residents turned into a debacle when the website crashed at 7.30pm on Wednesday, with just two million people having completed the national survey.

Mr O'Dowd said he fielded plenty of calls before census night from concerned residents who had questions about the digital move and privacy.

He said in hindsight it was not a good idea for the Australian Bureau of Statistics to direct millions of people online.

Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd was bombarded with questions about the census when he was in Monto this week with people waiting for their official forms.
Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd was bombarded with questions about the census when he was in Monto this week with people waiting for their official forms. Campbell Gellie

The Flynn member said the debacle might also impact the future of online voting for state and federal elections.

He was one of the two million Australians able to complete the survey online before the website crashed.

The census website was shut down by the ABS shortly after 7.30pm.

In a press conference in Canberra yesterday, Assistant Treasurer Michael McCormack denied the survey had been "hacked" or "attacked", instead labelling the situation "an attempt to frustrate the collection of data".

But Mr O'Dowd said, regardless, it seemed they were not prepared for the influx of people on the site.

"There has been talk of online voting with future elections but I think they will have to put a lot of work in before they do that," the federal MP said.

"You do learn by your mistakes. With switching 16 million people to online it's a big ask."

Residents in Gladstone were delivered paper copies of the survey while outer regions were given 12-digit log-on details to complete it online.

Mr O'Dowd said this created further confusion in the lead-up.

"It was total confusion, total chaos. We need to do better," he said.

Some Gladstone residents were counting their lucky stars they completed the paper version of the survey.

On The Observer's Facebook page yesterday, Jason Fitzgerald said he was not surprised at the site crash.

"... Because everyone waited to do it at the government's schedule on a server that can not accommodate that amount of people at once."

Abby Foxhall said: "When my code came in the mail I ordered a paper version straight away so I didn't have to bother dealing with the website."

To some, such as Jodie Lee, it was no surprise.

"Could have seen that coming," she wrote.

 

Residents have until mid-September to complete the census and they will not be fined.