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Byron Shire
May 12, 2021

One in five without census forms in Byron, Bangalow

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censusAs many as 20 per cent of Byron Bay and Bangalow households are without a printed form on the day of the census, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has admitted.

The ABS has blamed bad weather and a bout of flu among its census collectors in the shire for the failure, which could see hundreds of people having to postpone filling out their forms.

But an ABS spokesperson said householders would not be penalised for not filling it out tonight and they would have until August 20 to return their forms.

ABS spokesperson Lynette Zito told ABC radio, ‘the only time anyone may get fined is if they absolutely refuse to do the census. So there won’t be any fines for running late, particularly if they didn’t get their forms until late.’

People are also being encouraged to fill out the census online.

When you do fill out the form however, whether in print or online, you must fill in the details as they applied to your household tonight.

Name or no name?

Meanwhile, the debate about whether it is legal not to give your name on your census form online continues to rage, with a lawyer from the Castan Centre for Human Rights saying it is not a legal requirement.

Dr Caroline Henckels, wrote on her blog for the centre, ‘It has been suggested that failing to provide your name on the census form is an offence. This is not the case: section 14 of the act states that a person only commits an offence if they fail to comply with a direction by an authorised officer, either orally or in writing, to fill out the census form or ‘a specified question that is necessary to obtain any statistical information’ in the census.

‘In other words, a failing to comply with a “direction” is not just the act of not filling in your name, but failing to provide the information following a direction made to you individually.’

She added that even in such a case ‘it would be up to the ABS to determine whether to refer a case for prosecution and for the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider whether to pursue a prosecution. It has been reported… that only a small proportion of the people who have failed to follow the direction of an authorised officer have been prosecuted.’

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  1. We have a whole retirement village in Tweed Heads West without any paperwork at all.
    when we got through to report it, they hadn’t even got our address in their files. We have 86 Villas here, over 350 people.

  2. I think the whole danger of the census is just a beat up by people that are convinced that there are conspiracies everywhere. The Australian Bureau of Statistics is an excellent organisation which which I have had a lot of contact over the last 15 years. They are the main sponsors of the annual conference of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. The ABS staff are practical progressive people who know they need to have really detailed analysis of the Australian population at regular intervals not only for economic reasons but to show the diversity of the Australian population in terms of real and growing levels of permanent employment, sexuality, religious commitment, actual income, ethnic origins etc. Which is the reason why Tony Abbott proposed only having having censuses every 10 years. To save money and to pretend that we are a happy little homo-genius society of white Anglo-Saxon God-fearing true Aussies. Give me a break.

    In reality most people supply vast amounts of personal information through Facebook quite freely which Facebook and Google, far larger than the census asks. Facebook and Google are able to suck up this info using their algorithms. Most people do this without ever thinking for a second about about what they are offering up to Facebook and Google.

    People love fake conspiracy theories and I believe this is one.

    It’s one of the reasons why I’m very depressed about the fate of humanity because people are so easily sucked in by nonsense.

    • What you call nonsense, some of us call a legitimate concern. Privacy means different things to different people, and while a “public” figure like yourself may not see data harvesting as an issue, many people do.

      The ABS people are not the problem, and it is ingenious of you to suggest that this is the main concern of privacy advocates. People are concerned about the government, and how they will use this information. The ABS census is very important, but they have no need to keep personal data attached to it. It makes no sense to keep it unless it is to be used for profiling.

      Mandatory inclusion of personal data undermines the legitimacy of the Census, which will ultimately lead to contaminated data.

      The argument about corporate data harvesting is a non sequitur. Not all people use google (or social media), and those that do are doing it by choice, not because they are been threatened with prosecution. Some people prefer to withhold personal information, not because they have something to hide, but because corporations and governments are constantly seeking to erode our right to privacy. Data is one of the most valuable currencies of the new millennium, and I plan on protecting mine.

      When the data-retention laws were introduced we were told they were a powerful tool to target high profile crime and terrorism, yet now over 60 agencies have applied for access to it, including bodies like the RSPCA and taxi companies. To me this does not sound like anti-terrorism, and I believe that passing these laws set a dangerous precedent. In my opinion, it is only a matter of time before this ABS data is breached either legitimately through government legislation, or by outside hacking forces.

      I’m depressed about the fate of humanity, because people put such blind trust in their governments and mock those who don’t conform.

      Note: I believe that man landed on the moon, that 9-11 was a terrorist attack, and that those things in the sky are vapour. I am not concerned about conspiracies, I am concerned about what governments are actually doing. I believe that if we don’t fight for our rights today, the people of tomorrow will have none.

      • You wrote: ” The ABS people are not the problem, and it is ingenious of you to suggest that this is the main concern of privacy advocates. People are concerned about the government, and how they will use this information.” The staff of the ABS are bound by he Privacy Act and other relevant legislation that prevents its provision for purposes other than for what it was intended for or allowed for by law. . If the government demands the information for some other purpose the ABS staff are not permitted to provide it. It would not be a lawful direction and they would not be required to follow it, and it would be a breach of the APS Code of Conduct if they were to break the law and release the information. Such is the culture of law and probity that prevails in the APS that it would be most likely that nay government would attempt to demand the information and even less likely that the ABS staff would provide it. It will be interesting to see if the non-provision of names is lawful. We thankfully have never embraced the rabid dysfunctional libertarian ism of some people in the US and most people have a measure of trust in our governments that has served us well in shaping a humane and cvilised scociety. I have no idea why any good citizen would advocate other than assisting an organisation of the ABS’s repute to do its task as it need to do it and give us the information we need about our communities and our society.

        • I’m afraid I just don’t share your confidence that future governments will be bound by this decision to not use the personal information included in the census. As governments from both sides of the political spectrum have shown, legislation can be enacted at any time to do what was once considered unthinkable. I don’t think that our politicians are inherently bad, but I find much of the current political rhetoric highly concerning, and it undermines my trust in the institution as a whole.

          I agree with much of what you say, and I am more than happy to contribute to build a better and more inclusive society. Yet I don’t believe that to want to withhold my name and address from a national survey in any way makes me an irresponsible citizen, nor does it commit me to any type of ideology outside of an interest in maintaining a modicum of privacy. I just cannot see how identifying information will improve the ABS data sets in any way, other than profiling (which I am strongly against for ethical reasons), and nobody has convinced me otherwise – despite having searched quite widely for a viable explanation.

          I know that people with privacy concerns often come off as paranoid, flaky or as somebody with something to hide. What this overlooks is the sad fact that some of us have lost confidence in our political institutions. This is not a knee-jerk reaction, but a thoughtful position of somebody who is concerned more about fate of future generations than their own situation. I hope that this explains my position.

          • I do not know why you suggest “most of us have lost trust in our political institutions”. The overwhelming majority of Australians have shown their trust by voting – and the majority of them vote for the mainstream parties – and by paying their taxes. People are reading too much into the incessant noise of minorities like the Greens, One Nation, the Shooters and the Motorists.. Government agencies don’t ask for information that is not needed – they have to pay to enter and manage it, so it appears the ABS could do a better job of explaining to you how the name information is used for compliance (the Census is compulsory after all as it should be). And yes the government could introduce legislation to make the information available to another agency. Apart from the public outcry, they would though need to consider the workings of the Privacy Act that prevents information being used for other then the purpose it was given. The very tight control on Tax information is an example of how that works, to protect the information and maximise tax revenue. While you might not see yourself as being irresponsible in withholding your name, people who do not comply actually make the ABS’s job more difficult and add to the cost we all pay of what should be a straight forward process. I might also add that I agree that politicians are not inherently bad – I think no one inherits evil per se. That leaves then the question as to why Hanson has become what she is – a person who cynically exploits ignorance to gain power. But I doubt you should fear anyone in the ABS will breach the secrecy provisions of the Crimes Act to give her your details!


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