South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon has declared that he will not enter his name in tomorrow night’s Census despite the potential to be prosecuted.
The 2016 Census, administered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, has been at the centre of a privacy furore over ABS plans to retain individuals’ names and addresses for four years. The ABS has said that retaining the extra data will improve the quality of the statistics that can be derived from the Census.
“I have decided this morning that I will not be providing my name for this year’s census due to be completed tomorrow night,” Xenophon said in a statement issued today.
“I do so in full knowledge that I may face prosecution under the Census and Statistics Act of 1905, and that currently involves a fine of $180 per day that is cumulative for every day of non-compliance.”
The senator said that the ABS “has failed to make a compelling case why names must be provided, and stored for four years, and unlike any other census in this nation’s history since that first census on the 2nd of April 1911, all names will be turned into a code that ultimately can be used to identify you.”
Xenophon noted a Daily Telegraph article published today that said that documents released to the paper under Freedom of Information laws revealed the bureau wanted “to link names and addresses to census data to make ‘new products’”.
A briefing paper “flagged linking names and addresses to welfare payment, Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits data, as well as the electoral roll and immunisation register,” the Telegraph reported.
Xenophon said that “it seems, rather than being a snapshot of the nation, this census will now morph into a mobile CCTV that follows every Australian.”
The Senator said he would seek to amend the Census and Statistics Act to remove the risk of prosecution if a person declines to provide their name. Xenophon said that he would seek to make the change apply retrospectively to Census night.
The Greens have called on the government to rule out fines for people who do not provide their names and addresses.
"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 communications spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam.