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Wednesday, 14 December 2016 22:13

ATO response to hardware crash: low-grade spin Featured

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At 6.38pm on Tuesday, the Australian Taxation Office issued a media release to inform the masses about the fate of its online systems which had been down since Monday.

According to the ATO, the news was cheery: "Our website is now back online at ato.gov.au for you to access tax and super information. Thank you for your patience."

Yet, at 2200 AEDT tonight, 27 hours later, the operative part of the ATO site is still down.

The home page is of little use to an Australian when the four links that lead inwards — "Lodge online with myTax", "Update my details", "Progress of my return" and "Pay now – through myGov" — are all dead.

They all lead to pages with the legend "This service is temporarily unavailable" – the same as I encountered at 0800 AEDT on Wednesday when I checked the site.

After that, the ATO has issued two more media releases, one at 1004 AEDT and the second at 1750 AEDT.

Neither makes the claim that the website is back and running as usual.

There are a plethora of excuses. And plenty of poor-quality spin. Just have a look for yourself.

So why tell the public that the website was back online the previous day?

The ATO is desperate to make people believe that there has been no loss of data. But who would believe them when they don't tell us the truth straight away about the site being down?

How does one know that data has not been lost when it has not been restored completely from a backup?

The ATO even managed to sell a fair few journos on the excuse that it was a world first occurrence, saying: "We understand this is the first time this problem has been encountered anywhere in the world and we are working with our partners at Hewlett Packard Enterprise to determine the underlying cause."

If that is so, then one needs to seriously question the ATO's understanding of such systems. A world first, indeed.

In case the ATO is unaware, these are records the country can do without.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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