Census boycotters face fines

Census boycott talks are on the rise as privacy groups demand that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reverse its plans to retain names and addresses from the 2016 Census. However, the ABS warns that Australians who refuse to complete the form will face fines of up to $180.

For the first time in the Census’ 105-year history, the ABS announced it would store collected name and address information in order to “enable a richer dynamic statistical picture of Australia”.

The government authority insisted the decision was made following a full privacy impact assessment, with “extremely robust safeguards in place” to protect confidentiality. However, civil liberties groups have condemned the change and called for its reversal.

 “Australians value their privacy, they used to trust the ABS, and they would be alarmed by this sneaky change to the way their personal information would now be stored,” says Australian Privacy Foundation Vice Chair Kat Lane.

The ABS initially wanted to retain the information ‘indefinitely’, but the tide of criticism resulted in a change to four years, or until the next Census.

Talks of boycotts have prompted the ABS to remind Australians that the census is compulsory, and penalties will apply for non-participants.

“Australians traditionally show strong support for the Census and the need to enforce penalities is rare … However, it is sometimes necessary to use legislative provisions in order to maintain the integrity of ABS statistics,” the bureau stated.

Census night is on 9 August.

Do you take issue with the ABS retaining your name and address? Do you feel it’s an invasion of privacy?

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Written by Louise Baxter

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