Census should not collect names, everyone should have a number instead: Labor

A shadow assistant minister has said Australians should be identified by a number, while the Queensland government has invoked Sesame Street to get people to complete the next week's Census.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
count von count
(Image: Sesame Street/Queensland government)

Shadow Assistant Minister to Bill Shorten for Tasmania and Shadow Assistant Minister for Ageing Senator Helen Polley has come up with a unique approach to resolving concerns over Australia's Census due on August 9: Replacing names with numbers.

"I don't understand the necessity of having to complete the census with your name," Polley told reporters on Tuesday. "People have a right to be concerned; there is no reason why you should have to give your full name.

"You should be able to be identified with a number.

"I join with those people who are raising their concerns with me, because I think this is a step too far."

Polley said there were real issues with the Census in regards to national security and cybersafety, and called on the government to communicate its intentions to the people.

"We are being told that [names] will not be relayed onto other government agencies ... I know as a Member of Parliament what occurs between government agencies. So I share the community's concern when it comes to cybersafety and protecting their personal information."

The shadow assistant minister to the leader for Tasmania called on the government to bump up its advertising spend so that "everyone feels comfortable".

"People are going to make their own judgements as to what information they are willing to provide to the government," Polley said.

Senator Polley told ZDNet identity numbers would be more appropriate from a privacy perspective, and would address community unease regarding confidentiality concerns.

There have been calls on social media for Australians to boycott next Tuesday's Census, due to privacy concerns that the Australian Bureau of Statistics will retain name and address data for four years.

However, Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt has warned that state governments are set to lose AU$5,300 for each person who does not complete a Census form, due to the per capita funding arrangements between state and federal governments.

"The cost of not being counted far outweighs any inconvenience residents might perceive in filling out the Census," Pitt said. "Even if just 1 percent of the Gold Coast's population of around 560,000 are not counted, we could miss out on around AU$29.6 million in federal funds."

In order to get Queenslanders to complete the Census, the government has enrolled the Sesame Street character Count von Count.

ZDNet has asked the Queensland government how much it spent acquiring the Sesame Street copyright for the campaign.

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