It turns out that it's the ABS that wants to cancel the 2016 census, not the Abbott government. The proposal comes because the official statistics body wants to move to a 10-year census cycle rather than our current five, bringing Australia into line with the UK and USA.
Statistics image via Shutterstock
According to the SMH, the ABS asked the government to remove the piece of legislation that mandated it conduct a census once every five years and replace it with legislation for a census once every 10 years. With the 2011 Census our most recent iteration, that would mean another six years until the next one in 2021.
The ABS, too, is working on methods of capturing population data without the need for a regular census, allowing for tri-monthly data releases on Australian states' population instead of the five-yearly current model. The current census model is weighty — it takes at least 10 months to release initial data and up to 3 years for detailed census information — but has the power of statistical accuracy on its side.
Canada conducts a voluntary National Household Survey in lieu of a regular census, but the data it produces is widely panned as "garbage". Voluntary reporting rates are much lower, and are biased to larger cities and metropolitan areas rather than evenly distributed across provinces.
There is some disagreement on the SMH's reporting, too:
— Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36) February 19, 2015