Shorten calls for post-Census review as OAIC remains satisfied

Labor leader Bill Shorten has called for Australians to complete the Census while the Australian Privacy Commissioner continues to give the ABS its tick of approval.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

As a growing number of Australian politicians have said they will boycott Tuesday's Census, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has called on Australians to complete the survey.

"I wouldn't just dismiss these concerns about privacy out of hand but I think on balance, the Census does a lot more good than harm," Shorten told reporters.

"I would ask Australians to complete the census honestly and truthfully. It really does help the nation understand where we're at and make good long-term decisions."

Shorten said that once the Census is completed, the Australian government needs to discuss with parliament the increasing retention of names and address data, and the reasons it is being kept.

"I think we need to have a good, long look at the whole process to make sure we're not asking for information we don't need," he said. "And to reassure ourselves that what information that is stored, is stored securely."

The Opposition Leader said politicians that have committed to boycotting the Census are grandstanding, and the government had done such a poor job of advocating for the changes in the Census the Opposition needed to step up to defend it.

Not to be left out of the silly ideas caper surrounding the Census, Shadow Assistant Minister to Bill Shorten for Tasmania and Shadow Assistant Minister for Ageing Senator Helen Polley said last week the Census should not collect names and instead everyone should have a number.

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

Meanwhile, Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim has told the ABC he is satisfied with the security the bureau of statistics has in place for Census data.

"We've had a very recent meeting where the ABS has taken my staff through some detailed discussions around the ICT measures and the security measures to protect the data that is going to be collected, and I am generally satisfied that they are using good standards to protect that information as it is collected either online, and also the processes they'll be using to collect the paper forms," Pilgrim said.

The Privacy Commissioner said the explanations given to the community on why their data would be retained for longer, could have been better.

"I think it demonstrates that any organisation, whether it is a government organisation or even a private sector organisation needs to be really transparent about why it is collecting information and how it is going to be used," he said.

Despite increasing calls for a boycott, ABS chief David Kalisch told reporters today the ABS was still expecting 98 percent of households to complete the survey.

"The evidence that we are seeing today is that Australians are embracing the Census, and they are completing the Census properly, fully, and easily -- so I don't share that concern at the moment," he said.

Kalisch said if a widespread boycott were to occur, then the ABS may need to look at the quality of the data, but it was not expected to happen.

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