As you may be aware, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has changed the policy for this year’s Census. No longer anonymous, names and addresses will now be stored. This move not only puts people’s privacy at risk, experts say, but attempts to thwart the system in protest will make the Census itself inaccurate.
Without accurate data, essential government services could be misdirected, under-resourced or wiped out, The Greens say, and Nick Xenophon is calling for the whole thing to be postponed as community concerns arise.
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The Australian Bureau of Statistics Census is a crucial tool for the development of strong, evidence-based policy, The Greens pointed out in a statement.
“Government support services, payments, planning and development decisions are all based on information obtained through the census. Australians have trusted the census, and the overwhelming majority of us, despite the occasional outbreak of the religion of Jedi, participate honestly and appropriately to contribute to this trove of information.”
This honesty is something that is most definitely at risk, with lawyers and scholars encouraging outright disobedience and lobby group Electronic Frontiers pointing out the techniques people are using to avoid the Census altogether.
“In a nation where states are banning protest, where doctors and journalists can be imprisoned for exposing child abuse in detention centres, where the right to silence is under attack, it’s no wonder that thousands of people have expressed alarm at the risk to their personal privacy,” The Greens say, urging Scott Morrison to intervene “to Save the Census“.
Nick Xenophon made a post on his Facebook page regarding the amount of calls he has received from the community worried about their privacy and the format of the Census competition itself, among reports of the hotline to request a paper form being under strain and unable to receive calls and residents unintentionally throwing out online codes sent in the post, believing it to be junk mail:
The responses to his post raised even more issues:
Speaking to The Australian, Xenophon said “The census is meant to provide accurate information on which good policies are based but right now it seems to be headed for a debacle.”
“The unintended main statistic from this census might be the huge number of Australians who can’t complete it through no fault of their own.”