Greens call on ABS to rule out census fines


news The Australian Greens have called for the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to “rule out” fines for people that do not wish to provide their name and address when completing their census forms.

In a statement on their website, the party said that Federal Minister for Small Business Michael McCormack should direct the ABS to abandon the fines in order to maintain “trust” in the census.

Currently, individuals failing to provide name and address details on their census return can be fined $180 for every day of non-compliance.

“The ABS response to privacy concerns has been wholly inadequate, and if they refuse to push census day back, they need to guarantee they will not fine people who choose to protect their own privacy,” said Australian Greens Co-Deputy Leader and Communications Spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam.

“The ABS has stated that there’s been no significant change, that they’re merely extending the [data] retention period from 18 months to 4 years. What they’ve failed to realise is that public trust in government to keep personal information private is at an all-time low,” he said.

Since the last census, Australia has seen a “dramatic increase” in citizen surveillance, the senator said, adding: “We’ve seen states and territories ramp up attacks on speech, assembly and protest. We’ve just concluded a double dissolution federal election campaign that was called in response to a government attack on workplace rights.”

He said that similar proposals to change the census in 2006 and 2011 had been subject to “real independent scrutiny” and had been abandoned.

“Last year the ABS completed a farcical secretive internal process and gave themselves the all-clear,” Ludlam said. “It’s a process that wouldn’t pass a university ethics test for a survey.”

Retention of name and address information should never proceed without the “informed consent of the survey subjects”, he added.

“This atrocious contempt for due diligence, and the recent actions of the government more broadly, have led to unprecedented levels of distrust in the census. The ABS is risking a huge outbreak of non-compliance, compromising the value of census data,” said Ludlam.

He concluded by saying that the ABS must rule out fines for those keeping their name and address off their census form. This would give Australians “confidence” to complete the census this year, pending a “more substantial review of their processes and proposals”.

The Greens’ statement comes as Independent Senator for South Australia Nick Xenophon announces a protest over the census’s privacy “risks”, which will see him refuse to enter his name on his census return and risk prosecution.

Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting


  1. Actually, I have a very good idea.

    I see no reason anybody should pay taxes, and this includes Local Council Rates. I claim paying taxes infringes–no, VIOLATES–my right to privacy.

    I do not want to pay MY money to support those bludgers and pirates in Canberra. I want my privacy guaranteed, and withdrawing myself from the current system is the best way to do it.

    But I want all the things that make life worth living, like FTTP, hospitals, and protection from thieves.

    • Ahh so I think I get it…. U want to have all the benefits of society but not be part of it? Your best bet would be to become CEO of a large corporation …. Probably a bank. Good luck ;-)

      • Now tell that to all the trolls here and in parliament who don’t want the ABS to retain their names.

        • I think most would like them to have a decent non-commercial reason for doing so. To be able to provide some mediocre level of assurance over the security of said data.

          What they’ve done is sneak it through ‘under the radar’ when its too late for anyone to argue differently and basically stonewalled all attempts to have a discussion about it.

  2. Just thought I’d do a media release… :) Just in case anybody thought they didn’t tell anyone :)

    ABS to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment
    11 November 2015 | CO/81

    The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today announced it will conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment on the retention of names and addresses from responses to the 2016 Census of Population and Housing.

    The ABS is considering the retention of names and addresses as a key enabler for improved household surveys and high quality statistics.

    The retention of names and addresses would support the integration of Census data with other high value survey and administrative data to provide a richer and dynamic statistical picture of Australia.

    Historically, the ABS has destroyed all name and address information after statistical processing of the Census has been completed.

    In considering this change, the ABS remains committed to maintaining high levels of community trust. No information will be released in a way that would enable users of Census data to identify any particular individual or household. Names and addresses will be separated from other household and personal data collected in the Census. Addresses and anonymous versions of names will only be used for approved projects.

    To inform both our decision and approach, the ABS will undertake a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) and is seeking feedback on this proposal.

    Further information is contained in the ABS Statement of Intent. To provide feedback on the proposal, please write to by 2 December 2015.

    The ABS Privacy Policy outlines how the ABS will handle any personal information that you provide to us.

    Have a nice day. :)

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