ABS responds to incorrect assertions in AFR story about Census

The headline of the Australian Financial Review article, “Census no longer anonymous”, published on 10 March 2016, is false.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) never has and never will release identifiable Census data.

Names and addresses have always been collected in the Census, and the public has always willingly cooperated with this knowing their confidentiality is protected by legislation.

This will not change in the 2016 Census. What will change is the retention of names and addresses to make the Census even more valuable. Combining Census data with other national datasets can allow the ABS to produce statistics that will inform better decisions around health, education, infrastructure and the economy.

Names and addresses will be stored securely and separately from other Census data, and each other, and will never be recombined with other Census data.

The article suggests that there is a risk that the strong protections in the legislation may be changed in the future. Privacy of data collected is a fundamental pillar of an official statistical system. In Australia these protections have existed since the foundation of the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 1905. This will not change.

The article further suggests the ABS released the decision to retain names and addresses in the 2016 Census in a non-transparent way. This change was informed by a long, transparent public consultation and stakeholder engagement process. We invited public submissions and consulted directly with the Australian Privacy Commissioner, and State and Territory Privacy Commissioners.

The ABS will continue to listen and engage with the public and stakeholders in the lead up to the 2016 Census on 9 August 2016 to achieve full and accurate participation, and maintain its position as a global leader in Census-taking.

David W. Kalisch
Australian Statistician

Find out more about the ABS' retention of names and addresses here: https://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/D3310114.nsf/home/Retention+of+names+and+addresses+collected