Shorten says Govt has “bungled” the Census


news While acknowledging that the Census “does a lot more good than harm”, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has said that the government has “bungled” 2016’s official survey of the Australian population.

The Labor leader’s interview comments come as some politicians, such as independent senators Nick Xenophon and Jacqui Lambie, said they would refuse to enter their name or address on the Census form in protest at privacy issues.

The senators and anyone else not entering these details – data which the Australian Bureau of Statistics will keep for four years – risk fines of $180 per day of non-compliance.

Shorten said he would be putting his name on the Census, and that it is “a very important bit of research”, allowing Australia to “understand what’s happening and to be able to perform more efficiently and effectively”.

However, he added:

“I am frustrated that this Government has bungled the Census so much that we now see these debates in the days before the Census about how long they should be keeping the data for. I respect people’s privacy concerns, but people should remember that in 2011 some of this data was kept for a period of up to 18 months.”

Raising the “tens of millions of dollars” already been spent on rolling out the Census, the politician called on Australians to “not to make that effort a waste”, and to fill in their Census forms.

“[I]t’s the best way of Australia being able to map the most effective use of our resources and it’s a snapshot, it’s a mirror of the nation in 2016,” he said. “Let’s try and make it work even if the Government has done a terrible job in explaining it.”

Once the Census is completed, though, Shorten said the government should “sit down” with the Parliament and discuss the issues, such as how long Census data should be kept for, and for what is the purpose is it being kept?

“I think we need to have a good, long look at the whole process to make sure we’re not asking for information we don’t need and to again reassure ourselves that what information that is stored is stored securely,” he added.

Looking at the government’s handling of the national survey, he said the three different Liberal ministers that have been responsible for the Census – Alex Hawke, Kelly O’Dwyer and Michael McCormack – had not “done a good job” explaining the Census.

“We had none of these problems in 2011,” Shorten said. “I think the Liberal Government’s been asleep at the wheel. At the last minute people are raising problems. I wouldn’t just dismiss these concerns about privacy out of hand but I think on balance, the Census does a lot more good than harm.”

Addressing those politicians who had decided late in the process to return incomplete Census forms, Shorten suggested that perhaps a little “grandstanding” was going on, since some of the information about the Census had been in the public domain for “weeks and months”.

“At the end of the day though there are legitimate debates about making sure this information is securely stored,” he said.

According to the ABC, Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said says his agency is “generally satisfied about the ability of the Bureau of Statistics to securely collect, retain and protect Census data”.

However, he recognised the “legitimate” privacy concerns held by some Australians, and said any government or private organisation collecting personal information “must explain the case clearly for why the data is needed and how it will be used”.

Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting


  1. $9 million for a system to go down is a waste of money to me. Its all the Liberals and IBM’s fault. Then they try to cover themselves and blame it on the Russians ! Their outsourcing experiments does this.

    they stuffed up the Census like they stuffed up the NBN. The NBN is already falling over for many because its ADSL.

  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. :)

  3. “generally satisfied about the ability of the Bureau of Statistics to securely collect, retain and protect Census data”

    Two out of three ain’t bad;-)

  4. “Once the Census is completed, though, Shorten said the government should “sit down” with the Parliament and discuss the issues, such as how long Census data should be kept for, and for what is the purpose is it being kept?”

    It’s a bit late then. This should have happened instead of having an 8 week election campaign.

    Curiously, I have seen no commentary on the following statement on the front page of the census website:

    “Security of the ABS website
    The ABS applies a range of security controls to protect its website from unauthorised access. However, users should be aware that the World Wide Web is an insecure public network that gives rise to a potential risk that a user’s transactions are being viewed, intercepted or modified by third parties or that files which the user downloads may contain computer viruses, disabling codes, worms or other devices or defects.

    The Australian Government accepts no liability for any interference with or damage to a user’s computer system, software or data occurring in connection with or relating to this website or its use. Users are encouraged to take appropriate and adequate precautions to ensure that whatever is selected from this site is free of viruses or other contamination that may interfere with or damage the user’s computer system, software or data.”

    • Who needs commentary on a standard disclaimer?

      I’ll translate it for you: “If you use old obsolete browsers which don’t understand currrent security paradigms or if you use an old or unsecured wireless connection, or your router should have been replaced recently, or your box is full of malware: we cannot guarantee bad people won’t read everything you have.”


      Oh yes. About Shorten: read the press release above.

  5. If only Shorten had won the election last month, none of this would have happened.


  6. I see Richard and alain (Reality) doing their bit as the trusty followers they are, to always fully support their political masters…*sigh*

    How deliciously typical… but of course they genuinely believe FTTN (FRAUDBAND as they undoubtedly called it 10 years ago) is now the way to go…*cough*


    But I digress, personally I tend to agree with alain (yes I am sick)…even if not his typical, defensive, childish delivery.

    I did the Census early on Tuesday, because I thought it obvious if everyone was doing it on our shitty copper network at the same time, it would be even slower than the usual snail pace or that the “Census site may have issues, due to the amount of users.”

    I think it was to be expected to a degree, regardless of who was governing. But we know who are governing, so…

    But typically, the two musketeers, who blame the others for everything, even tough they have had no control over any of it 3 years, can’t blame them this time…

    But look… alain is still trying…and Dick is still, willing to take a bullet for the cause.


    You’re welcome

Comments are closed.