Home > Oz Politics > Should the census be compulsory?

Should the census be compulsory?

August 2nd, 2016

There’s been a lot of discussion about the ABS decision to retain names and addresses in the Census until 2020 rather than deleting them more rapidly as in the past. Although the details differ, there’s been a dispute of this kind before every Census I can recall. Rather than debate the details, I’d like to think about the question: should the Census be compulsory, and if not what kind of requirement should there be?

I can think of three main reasons why we (Australians/the government/the ABS) might plausibly want to make Census participation compulsory. I’m not fully convinced by any of them

(i) Because we can. Historically, government agencies of all kinds have relied on compulsion simply because they are established by law. For example, public servants used to be banned from going on strike and teachers were shipped from one school to another at a whim. The military still works this way: the need for immediate obedience to orders in battle is taken to justify the use of this power in all contexts. Almost certainly, this contributes to high quite rates

(ii) The idea that a census is better than a sample, and that this superiority depends on counting everybody. The suspicions of the apocryphal critic who decried conclusions about the whole population derived from a sample of few thousand “and worse than that, a random sample” live on in most of us to some extent. But in fact the census can never be a complete count – around 2 per cent of the population is missed. Given that those missed are likely to be fairly atypical, the effect on aggregate estimates is probably comparable in magnitude to the standard error for a sample of, say, 10000.

(iii) The legal role of the Census in determining various kinds of allocations, most obviously electoral boundaries. Even if we were confident in a statistical sense, no one would be happy with the use of a sample of votes rather than a complete count in an election, and it makes intuitive sense to apply the same standard to a count used to determine boundaries.

Against this, the fact of compulsion creates costs and raises the risk that people will supply incorrect data. More fundamentally, the less compulsion we have the better.

Given all of that, my preferred policy would be to require everyone to complete the census form, but to allow an opt-out request, asking for the information supplied to be deleted except for the basic facts required to establish an accurate population count. My guess is that the opt-out rate would be very low, and that the 5-yearly fuss would go away.

As an aside, this is, pretty much, the situation we have with “compulsory” voting. You have to turn up and have your name crossed off, but there’s no compulsion to write anything on the ballot paper. So, simple laziness doesn’t give you an opt-out, but any genuine objection can be accommodated. This is, among other things, why I favor optional preferential voting.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:
  1. August 2nd, 2016 at 14:50 | #1

    We can do a better job by having a continuous Census. The continuous Census is one where each of us has our own records of where we are and our “characteristics” in a secure place accessible only by us – or by someone we nominate. The data can be kept on your own phone, or another connected device, or it can be with someone you personally trust. If you have an objection to disclosing some information you should be allowed to withhold it.

    If any of your characteristics change – you move house – get married – have a child – get divorced etc. you agree to let the ABS know. The ABS can use the same system to do sampling census and this can save us time and allow the ABS to have a real-time understanding of the population.

  2. Luke Elford
    August 2nd, 2016 at 14:56 | #2

    “Given that those missed are likely to be fairly atypical, the effect is probably comparable in magnitude to the standard error for a sample of, say, 10000.”

    In 2011, there were about 2,200 SA2s. Are you suggesting that the census provides information on the population, household and dwelling characteristics of individual SA2s that is no more reliable than a sample that collected information from an average of 4.5 people or households per SA2?

  3. Ivor
    August 2nd, 2016 at 14:58 | #3

    @Kevin Cox

    Interesting idea but it assumes that 100% of the populatiomn has thrown almost their entire life onto the internet.

    Otherwise iot would be too burdensome.

    Naturally the Census has to be universal and compulsory because many of the groups that need to be identified may be too small for any sort of voluntary statistical sampling.

  4. J-D
    August 2nd, 2016 at 15:11 | #4

    As an aside, this is, pretty much, the situation we have with “compulsory” voting. You have to turn up and have your name crossed off, but there’s no compulsion to write anything on the ballot paper.

    That depends on what you mean by ‘compulsion’. The law says explicitly and specifically that ‘the voter … shall … mark his or her vote on the ballot paper … and … deposit it in the ballot?box’; that ‘[i]t shall be the duty of every elector to vote at each election’; and that ‘[a]n elector commits an offence if the elector fails to vote at an election’. There are also detailed provisions about the procedures to be followed to deal with ‘electors who appear to have failed to vote at the election’.

  5. Newtownian
    August 2nd, 2016 at 15:19 | #5

    Against this, the fact of compulsion creates costs and raises the risk that people will supply incorrect data.

    I think that risk will be particularly high this year. The very year that anti-establishment sentiment is growing across the board including in Australia as evidenced by the last poll they make identification provision compulsory! The mind boggles. Dont these people remember the Australia Card fury (Maybe not as it was 30 years ago)?

    More soberly it seems plausible that mass spoiling will happen and the big question for the stats bureau is whether the errors introduced will wreck the whole process.

    As to the form it might take I am here reminded of the Jedi religion phenomenon, a religion I will likely be joining this year if I cant avoid census completion altogether.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jedi_census_phenomenon

    Will respondents this time go the whole hog and claim they arent married or have children (Jedi’s cant), have no possesions other than a light sabre, and give no answer to questions of income as the current exchange rate between the galactic republic credit and AUD is a little unclear.

    Also note the past stats on this suggest the rate of false answers has been much higher in the part than you 10,000 estimate above suggests

  6. Ikonoclast
    August 2nd, 2016 at 15:20 | #6

    The census is compulsory. Yes, it should be compulsory. Perhaps the fines for not participating should be less and seldom actually imposed, which latter I suspect is the case anyway.

    I wonder what forces might be drumming up hysteria against the census? My guess is that it is the neoliberals and libertarians with their anti-state, anti-social-democracy agendas: the usual crowd who want to give more power to the rich and corporations. We ought to be very careful not to play into right-wing hands when they attack democratic state apparatus and legitimate measures for social democratic administration.

  7. Tim Macknay
    August 2nd, 2016 at 16:15 | #7

    @Ikonoclast

    The census is compulsory. Yes, it should be compulsory. Perhaps the fines for not participating should be less and seldom actually imposed, which latter I suspect is the case anyway.

    So you think it should be compulsory in theory but not in practice? Or compulsory, but not too compulsory? 😉

  8. Tom Davies
    August 2nd, 2016 at 16:41 | #8

    You haven’t mentioned the justification I’ve seen for having names and addresses: tracking what happens to a population over the years. (I’m not sure what people want to look at — “proportion of people under 24 who moved from a rural postcode to an urban one” perhaps)

    Otherwise couldn’t we just let people leave off their name and address, except for their postcode?

  9. Tom Davies
    August 2nd, 2016 at 16:43 | #9

    And you have a typo: “Almost certainly, this contributes to high quite [quit?] rates”

  10. Ikonoclast
    August 2nd, 2016 at 17:14 | #10

    @Tim Macknay

    Yes, pretty much. That sort of soft compulsion seems to work quite well in Australia. I am not sure about other countries. We get about 90% to 95% voter turnout with that strategy. It’s a bit of bluff. If a bit of bluff gets good compliance and no-one or hardly anyone gets hurt financially then it’s fine.

    I am suspicious of some data sampling, not in theory (I am sure the mathematical theory is good), but in practice. Data sampling can have practical problems which compromise data integrity. I am also very suspicious of cost-cutting in government stats programs under neoliberalism. We have seen ABS employment survey, CPI and other data go downhill in quality after cost-cutting exercises. This census debate to me smacks of another cost-cutting exercise likely first floated somewhere by liberatarians and designed at weakening social democratic government. Given the history of neoliberalism and its effects I think my suspicions are fully justified.

  11. 45man
    August 2nd, 2016 at 17:23 | #11

    You can get your ballot paper and draw anything you like – fold it and put it into the ballot box. This gives quite good amusement to electoral staffers as they go through the papers.

    You can then leave the voting place satisfied that you have voted, and your paper will be counted as an “informal vote”. Just get the paper in the box – folks. It is still a vote, an “informal vote”. A blank paper is still a vote; an informal vote.

    The main point as I see it, is that you must turn up and get your name crossed off, and deal with the paper in the privacy of the booth – so that no one else can either impersonate you if they know you will not be turning up, or buy your vote from you. There may be other factors.

    It is compulsory – and this is good. It creates a “General Will” at least to some extent.

  12. GrueBleen
    August 2nd, 2016 at 17:35 | #12

    @J-D

    I thought you’d be far more nuanced, logically, than that, J-D.

    Just to complete the discussion, here is what the Australian Electoral Commission says about compulsory voting:

    “Because of the secrecy of the ballot, it is not possible to determine whether a person has completed their ballot paper prior to placing it in the ballot box. It is therefore not possible to determine whether all electors have met their legislated duty to vote. It is, however, possible to determine that an elector has attended a polling place or mobile polling team (or applied for a postal vote, pre-poll vote or absent vote) and been issued with a ballot paper.”

    So, how “compulsory” is something for which it is impossible – and indeed highly illegal even if it were to become possible – to detect a transgression. In short, “compulsory voting” simply remains a pious hope so long as ballots are secret.

    You can check the AEC statement here: http://www.aec.gov.au/About_Aec/Publications/voting/index.htm

  13. John Quiggin
    August 2nd, 2016 at 17:38 | #13

    @J-D

    A law that can’t be enforced even hypothetically is a contradiction. So, given the legal secrecy of the ballot, the compulsion clauses you cite must refer to casting a ballot, while the instructions on how to vote refer to the validity or otherwise of the ballot. That’s the law as established in practice as well as the only logical reading.

  14. August 2nd, 2016 at 18:37 | #14

    I didn’t know we were having a census until I got a letter yesterday. I thought we had done away with them so decision making wouldn’t be contaminated with information. So I went to the Australian Bureau of Statistics website and read this little gem:

    “Yes, completing the Census is compulsory. The ABS has overwhelming community support for the Census. The vast majority of householders willingly cooperate.”

    And thought – Not for much longer with that sort of attitude, ABS.

  15. August 2nd, 2016 at 18:45 | #15

    Newtonian, please don’t lie about your religion or lack of religion on the census. There are people who will quite dishonestly claim all the Jedi and Sith and Pasterfarians reponses don’t count as serious answers and excise them to make Australians look more religious than they are. Then they will use this to argue in favor of school chaplains.

    You only have to look at Cardinal Pell to see why that’s a bad idea.

    It is unfortunate we can’t thumb our noses at the establishment by proclaiming to be Jedi without putting children in danger, but that’s the world we live in.

  16. paul walter
    August 2nd, 2016 at 19:25 | #16

    The census has been a done deal for a long time because of privacy previously respected.

    But this government is bitterly opposed to civil liberties and entranced with surveillance and data retention. It could claim “terrorism” warrants it, but I believe they are interested in gathering data to deal with or scapegoat internal adversaries.

  17. Douglas Hynd
    August 2nd, 2016 at 20:15 | #17

    I have filled out the census up to this date not because it was compulsory but as a contribution arising from citizenship. this year the switch to attaching my name, originally to be retained permanently and then changed to four years has been made without any convincing public justification. Government overreach and arrogance. I am currently contemplating not providing that information. It is a question whether the compulsion to supply statistical information covers the provision of my name.

  18. Donald Oats
    August 2nd, 2016 at 20:20 | #18

    Having read through the questions that are posed by the census, I have to wonder whether that information is worth the cost of doing a compulsory census. The only information that is recorded with some reliability is the list of names, addresses, etc of occupants of a given household. Of what value is that? It isn’t statistically useful information to know the names of occupants, except perhaps to say that “Belinda” is no longer a common first name in Australia.

    I don’t see anything on the census that couldn’t reasonably be obtained via standard statistical sampling of the population. Some of the questions are quite intrusive, and I would expect a high error rate with those, specifically because once people have recorded their names on the form, they may feel that they wish some personal information to remain private. In a proper statistical sample, where the individuals are truly anonymous, they are more likely to feel comfortable divulging the otherwise private information. For people who have been refugees, fleeing war-torn chaos, they may be quite understandably reluctant to divulge names and other private (in their opinion) information, having had to do that under fascist rule in other countries.

    In this day and age, a simple web-based form and randomised sampling could be managed, surely. Once up and running, it could be re-used for regular sample taking, rather than this monolithic static view of the census.

    That they intend to hold my name and details for several years is another big point against it. People are entitled to some minimum level of privacy, even in as despotic a regime as Australia 🙁

  19. Collin Street
    August 2nd, 2016 at 21:30 | #19

    If it’s not compulsory there’s no possibility of any point; self-selected samples are strictly less useful than properly-structured stratified sampling.

    Me, it’s out of my hands; seems like my notification letter’s gone missing or something.

  20. Dave
    August 3rd, 2016 at 00:24 | #20

    I support the new approach because I like what could be achieved wih data linkage with census data as a tool for social analysis. See Melbourne Uni’s HILDA to see what can be achieved when you can track change over time as well as snapshot.
    But, ABS should have done a much better job of explaining the why and the process. I guess part of the problem is that they are not a normal government agency which has politicians and advisors driving directions. It is an independent and introverted organisation which means it sometimes is too insular.
    I am no fan of the current govt but I doubt knew or cared about this before last week.

  21. Donald Oats
    August 3rd, 2016 at 05:26 | #21

    The census data becomes part of the longitudinal data assembly in production. In order to do the linkage process, the previous census data must have sufficient information in it to be able to confidently marry this census data with the one from five years ago. Now, five years ago is outside the window that they (supposedly) hold your name and address details from the previous census, so that begs the question as to how they expect to perform reliable linkages. There are ways and means, but not with the reliability that having the same name and birth date provides.

    So, what exactly is the mechanism by which longitudinal data sets are to be assembled?

    Once made, a longitudinal set of anonymised data would be a snap for matching against metadata sets from any number of agencies and performing mass de-anonymising services (aka unmasking). I think this data has honeypot written all over it.

    Civil Disobedience Penguin, we need you now.

  22. J-D
    August 3rd, 2016 at 08:20 | #22

    @John Quiggin

    It’s true that the way the law is structured makes it impossible for evidence to be produced that identified individuals did not mark their ballot papers as (theoretically) required by law; but this is not the same thing as saying that only attending the polling place and getting your name crossed off is compulsory. Attending the polling place and getting your name crossed off is a public act, and public evidence of it can be available; marking the ballot paper is (by law) a private act, of which there can be no legally admissible evidence; but there is another element of the process that’s been left out of that analysis, namely, taking the ballot papers and putting them into the ballot boxes.

    If people attend at the polling place, get their names crossed off the roll, take the ballot papers, and then put the papers into the ballot boxes, there can be no legal evidence to show whether they actually voted or not.

    But if people attend at the polling booth, get their names crossed off the roll, and then don’t take the ballot papers and put them into the ballot boxes, there can be legal evidence that they did not vote.

    So the compulsion to take ballot papers and put them into the ballot boxes is of the same kind as the compulsion to attend the polling place and get your name crossed off, and it’s not accurate to suggest that compulsion is limited to attendance at the polling place and getting your name crossed off the roll.

  23. Moz of Yarramulla
    August 3rd, 2016 at 08:49 | #23

    @J-D

    Donald Oats :
    five years ago is outside the window that they (supposedly) hold your name and address details from the previous census, so that begs the question as to how they expect to perform reliable linkages.

    That does rather punch a gaping hole in the professed motivations.

    I am not sure whether I’m being too cynical when I say that what matters is the data sharing *before* the names are removed, after that what the ABS does is irrelevant except to the people who steal the ABS dataset rather than that of one of the recipients of the original data.

    The obvious next step is to use data matching with other government departments to catch and prosecute people who lie on the census form. Or use the census to catch people who lie to other departments. I’m sure that between the ATO, Immigration and Centrelink we have enough information to be pretty sure of most of the census data already.

  24. Ivor
    August 3rd, 2016 at 09:19 | #24

    @J-D

    If people attend at the polling place, get their names crossed off the roll, take the ballot papers, and then put the papers into the ballot boxes, there can be no legal evidence to show whether they actually voted or not.

    Wrong. There is clear legal evidence they voted, and their vote is added to the count. It will appear either as a formal vote or an informal vote.

    If you want to pursue this = you need to produce a ruling that an informal vote is not a vote.

    The only people who get their name crossed off but “do not vote” are those whose papers end up in the discarded pile. There are also a number of spoilt votes where people make a mistake and request a fresh paper.

    If you want to pursue this – you need to produce an AEC guideline (or case) that indicates that this constitutes a breach of the Electoral Act.

    I can only find a possible breach if someone removes a paper from the booth, or if they damage Commonwealth property if they tear the ballot paper up.

  25. Ikonoclast
    August 3rd, 2016 at 10:52 | #25

    I hope John Quiggin and Bill Mitchell don’t mind me re-posting Bill’s opinion on the organisation of the latest census in this blog. It’s an opinion I agree with.

    “Neo-liberal efficiency – Australian government style

    Next Tuesday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), our national statistical agency, conducts its five-year Census of the population. It is compulsory and fines apply for failing to fill out the form.

    In its wisdom (not!), the neo-liberal Australian government (and its Labor predecessor) imposed so-called ‘efficiency dividend’ on the Australian public service and its agencies, including the ABS.

    Despite the fancy terminology, the ‘efficiency dividend’ is nothing more than a funding cut. The claim from the idiot government is that the ABS has to do things better with less and therefore reap ‘efficiencies’.

    So with significant cuts to its funding, the ABS decided to make the Census ‘paperless’, meaning we now fill the questionnaire out on-line via the Internet.

    One slight problem: a significant number of people (particularly the older citizens) do not have Internet access or even know how to use a computer. The ABS know that from previous censuses.

    So, to deal with that little hiccup, the ABS install 300 help lines so that older people and others without Internet access can call up and get a paper form mailed out to them by Tuesday.

    One slight problem further: the 300 lines are grossly insufficient to handle the number of people who have been seeking a paper document.

    The result: the phone lines have been jammed for some time and people are complaining of being put into hold queues for several hours.

    Some people are reporting extreme anxiety because they cannot get through and fear they will be fined for failing to lodge a paper form by next Tuesday.

    Many will not get through in time.

    The Government’s advice: ring early or late when the demand is less. Many older folk go to bed earlier than late! Many others cannot get to a phone at all!

    The whole thing is a farce.” – Bill Mitchell.

  26. August 3rd, 2016 at 12:18 | #26

    Privacy is dead, get over it, is my view, based on the hysterical retreat from accessible public information over the last few decades. Electoral rolls, with addresses, used to be held at universally accessible venues; now not. I don’t think that the telephone book could ever get off the ground now if it wasn’t grandfathered in to our expectations – and that’s particularly significant, because until the mobile phone system came into use I wouldn’t have thought you could have a communication system without a central register. If it’s good enough for Facebook to extort our data, it’s good enough for the crown…. perhaps we could get round it by having all interactions with the government involving clicking on a 10,000 word set of terms and conditions, the way that Microsoft does it.

  27. Beethoven
    August 3rd, 2016 at 12:53 | #27

    There’s nothing wrong in principle with the census being compulsory and with financial penalties for non-compliance, but there’s plenty wrong if people can’t get online because they haven’t been sent their log in code, or can’t get paper forms because the ABS haven’t got a big enough call centre to field requests from everybody who wants one.

  28. drsusancalvin
  29. drsusancalvin
    August 3rd, 2016 at 14:03 | #29

    Sorry for the link fail. Please adjust if you have teh skilz.

  30. tony lynch
    August 3rd, 2016 at 14:30 | #30

    What about those of us who suffer from Autism of the Form?

  31. August 3rd, 2016 at 15:51 | #31

    As a statistician I would just like to say that I very much like the idea of keeping everyone’s name for the census, the power of research opportunities it creates would be great.

    What I don’t understand is why governments here and in the UK have to make this so unncessarily complex. It should be possible to establish an independent organization that receives just the names (and where necessary dates) from e.g. hospital records, or census records, and then assigns them a random number, keeps the data but hands the random number only back to the record manager. Then if anyone wants to do linked data analysis they just hand their set of random numbers over to that independent authority, and get back the linked data with no names ever leaving hte linked authority’s files. This has been proposed for the UK too.

    Of course the UK then decided to abolish the census, because it’s all “too expensive.” I’m sure nothing will go wrong with that plan …

  32. Jim Birch
    August 3rd, 2016 at 16:08 | #32

    This whole idea of minimising government kinda beats me. I’m pretty clear that the places in the world with minimal government are places I don’t want to be. The idea is deranged.

    If we’ve decided to go with this government thing, we should really try for a good one, which means they make good decisions based on reliable information. A reliable census is a small step in the right direction.

    If you want your information protected, the fundamental requirement is a strong, properly resourced ABS. Some laws with severe penalties for misuse of the data would also help, but we have them, don’t we?

  33. Jim Rose
    August 3rd, 2016 at 16:27 | #33

    Hong Kong was notorious for refusing to collect statistics as a matter of policy and seem to get by.

    I thought electorate boundaries were based on registered voters rather than population. Maybe the allocation between states is by population and then it is by voters per seat.

  34. August 3rd, 2016 at 18:19 | #34

    Jim, Hong Kong has held a census every ten years since 1961 and a by-census every five years in between. This is explained at Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department.

  35. August 3rd, 2016 at 18:30 | #35

    @ChrisB

    #26

    I suspect that the battle for privacy is already lost. Or if not, it soon will be.

    This has been a recurring theme on David Brin’s blog “Contrary Brin”. He’s the scifi writer and futurist, among other endeavours. His argument is that trying to prevent surveillance is a lost cause.

    He also offers a remedy. He argues that we can surveil the surveillers, to keep them honest.

    “The only way to hold power accountable is to forcefully and effectively say to [them]: ‘We are watching you.'”

    For more, search http://davidbrin.blogspot.com.au/ for ‘sousveillance’.

  36. J-D
    August 3rd, 2016 at 18:35 | #36

    Ivor :
    @J-D

    If people attend at the polling place, get their names crossed off the roll, take the ballot papers, and then put the papers into the ballot boxes, there can be no legal evidence to show whether they actually voted or not.

    Wrong. There is clear legal evidence they voted, and their vote is added to the count. It will appear either as a formal vote or an informal vote.

    I won’t quote them in full here, because they’d take up too much space, but section 239 and section 240 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1981 (Cth) clearly set out how voters are required to mark their ballot papers; that is the legal definition of ‘voting’; therefore, people who do not mark the ballot paper in accordance with those instructions have not discharged their duty (s245(1)) to vote and are, theoretically, guilty of the offence (s245(5)) of failing to vote at an election. However, as previously discussed, if they have put their ballot papers into the ballot boxes there is no way of proving this in law.

    There is no such thing in law as an informal vote. Section 268 of the Act provides that if no vote is marked on a ballot paper it is counted as an informal ballot paper, but says nothing about an informal vote; obviously, if there is no vote on the ballot paper, then there is no vote.

    The entire Act can be studied online; feel free to look through it and let me know if you find anything in it that contradicts what I’ve observed.

  37. J-D
    August 3rd, 2016 at 18:44 | #37

    Jim Rose :
    Hong Kong was notorious for refusing to collect statistics as a matter of policy and seem to get by.
    I thought electorate boundaries were based on registered voters rather than population. Maybe the allocation between states is by population and then it is by voters per seat.

    Exactly right. The allocation between States by population is a Constitutional requirement and can’t be changed except by Constitutional amendment; allocation between electoral divisions within States is not a Constitutional requirement and is governed by an ordinary Act of Parliament, which can be amended in the same way as any other Act of Parliament.

    (By the way, I just posted a comment in response to Ivor on the subject of the law on voting, but it’s been caught in moderation because it has two links in it.)

  38. Charles Worringham
    August 3rd, 2016 at 20:12 | #38

    I have no problem with a compulsory census, and providing accurate information, but this requires basic trust in the authorities. A researcher from Bosnia told me that during the Milosevic days when students were required to register with the authorities many noted their ethnicity as “Eskimo”, quite understandably in the circumstances. There was also an interesting dispute in Wisconsin between a parent who upset the bureaucrats processing his baby’s birth certificate by answering the race question as “human”, challenging them to prove otherwise. Both cases more justifiable than “Jedi” responses to the ABS, I think.

  39. Beethoven
    August 3rd, 2016 at 20:19 | #39

    @J-D

    Suppose you go to the voting place, get your name crossed off, and then walk out the door before you get given the ballot papers. Are the AEC officials going to turn you in for violating s245?

  40. Collin Street
    August 3rd, 2016 at 21:16 | #40

    The entire Act can be studied online; feel free to look through it and let me know if you find anything in it that contradicts what I’ve observed.

    Ok, this is fundamentally misguided.

    The meaning of a text cannot be found by examining only that text, for the simple reason that texts don’t encode the entirety of their meaning within themselves; texts need to reference the external world to have relevance to the external world, and the readers of a text need to understand the external-world references to understand the meaning the text conveys.

    Real-world texts aren’t built from nothing but self-reference; they contain external references, and external references are, inherently, external to — not contained within — the text.

    If you want to understand a text, looking at the text alone won’t get you there.

  41. Ivor
    August 3rd, 2016 at 23:32 | #41

    @J-D

    The AEC states

    According to section 268 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act (1918), a vote is informal if:

    and there are seven conditions.

    If the AEC says “a vote is informal” then this means there are “informal votes”.

    The Section is titled….

    “Informal voting”

    and yet we have someone arguing here there is no informal votes !!!!!?????

    AEC discussion of informal votes is here: http://www.aec.gov.au/voting/informal_voting/

    If you look at each of the seven conditions you will see they are all based on evidence.

    This is evidence of informal voting using ballot papers.

    An informal ballot paper means the voter has voted informally.

    A formal ballot paper means the voter has voted formally.

    No action under sect 268 would trigger the Commissioner to consider that the person had not voted under sect 245 if the requirements under section 232 have been met.

    Sect 239 does not apply to people who are not voting above the line or below the line.

    Section 240 only applies to those people who are:

    Marking of votes in House of Representatives election

    If you are not in this category other provisions apply.

  42. Ivor
    August 3rd, 2016 at 23:33 | #42

    Crazy ….

    The AEC states:

    According to section 268 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act (1918), a vote is informal if:

    and there are seven conditions.

    If the AEC says “a vote is informal” then this means there are “informal votes”.

    The Section is titled….

    “Informal voting”

    and yet we have someone arguing here there is no informal votes !!!!!?????

    AEC discussion of informal votes is here: http://www.aec.gov.au/voting/informal_voting/

    If you look at each of the seven conditions you will see they are all based on evidence.

    This is evidence of informal voting using ballot papers.

    An informal ballot paper means the voter has voted informally.

    A formal ballot paper means the voter has voted formally.

    No action under sect 268 would trigger the Commissioner to consider that the person had not voted under sect 245 if the requirements under section 232 have been met.

    Sect 239 does not apply to people who are not voting above the line or below the line.

    Section 240 only applies to those people who are:

    Marking of votes in House of Representatives election

    If you are not in this category other provisions apply.

  43. paul walter
    August 4th, 2016 at 00:42 | #43

    They say their system, there can be no access to private details, but how can they guarantee this, straight faced?

    Census outings in the past have ensured RELEVANT data is collected without a possible breach of privacy, by NOT including the requirement that people add identification.

    If your personal details that identify you with your data are re not included, as has been the case, how can there be a security leak, surely not asking for intrusive info is the way to guarantee privacy in the first place?

  44. Lachie A’Vard
    August 4th, 2016 at 01:48 | #44

    @Jim Birch
    Yes, but since when have the government used data or evidence to develop policy?

    I don’t trust them, particularly not the current Christian-Fascist crop. Every response on my form will be a lie.

  45. J-D
    August 4th, 2016 at 07:26 | #45

    @Beethoven

    According to what I was told by the Australian Electoral Commission when I asked this question, that is what they are supposed to do.

  46. Greg Mckenzie
    August 4th, 2016 at 09:51 | #46

    The Census should be compulsory! Anyone who has read Thomas Piketty’s great book ,
    entitled: CAPITALin the twenty-first century; would know why it is important for economists to know facts from whole populations. Sample survey data is
    all well and good, but can be misleading. Census data gives a five year snap shot
    of the whole population. Any econometric analysis, involving correlated dependent
    variables, is only as good as the applied data source. Having said that, personal
    information needs to be handled like tax return data, that is it must be totally confidential.

  47. Jim Rose
    August 4th, 2016 at 10:11 | #47

    Thanks, but it did not have balance of payments statistics until after 1997 as I recall. It was scant on national accounting statistics in fact many other statistics apart from that census you mentioned
    @faustusnotes

  48. GrueBleen
    August 4th, 2016 at 10:29 | #48

    @J-D

    And, unlike the Police, AEC officials do not have official discretion.

  49. Ivor
    August 4th, 2016 at 10:46 | #49

    @Beethoven

    It would be logical to at least accept the paper when you get your name crossed off.

    You cannot damage it or remove it from the polling booth.

    You cannot do anything that a court would find is unreasonable – such as folding it into a paper plane and flinging it across the room. Although if this instance reflected a campaign of for example anarchists, the AEC may take action – but the AEC would not waste resources in mundane rare isolated circumstances.

  50. Bruce Bradbury
    August 4th, 2016 at 10:47 | #50

    As a researcher who regularly uses Census data, I totally support the compulsory nature of the Census. This is not primarily about sample size, but about representativeness. While 2% of people are missed by the Census (and around 10% for some questions) this is much better than sample surveys. Even the best surveys have response rates under 60%. (The compulsory ABS surveys have around 80-90% response). Census and similar data is then used to adjust these surveys to a least match the characteristics recorded in the Census.

    The retention of names is to match other govt databases using a process that is similar to the one faustusnotes describes. For example, in the last Census names were held for 12 months after the Census to match to death records. This led to a substantial upward revision to estimates of Aboriginal life expectancy.

    The longitudinal database does not match on names (as someone says, that would require holding names for more than 5 years). However, names are used by the Bureau to check the accuracy of the matching methods that are actually used.

    It is a shame that so much fuss is being made over the Census. The information retained is much less sensitive than that held by financial institutions and health service providers – and the security provisions and legislative requirements for protection are probably better.

    I am disappointed, however, that the Bureau and the government hasn’t done a better job of selling this message.

  51. Beethoven
    August 4th, 2016 at 10:49 | #51

    @Ivor

    Anyone who could fold the Senate voting paper into a paper plane and get it to fly across the room would be acclaimed as an aeronautical engineering genius. It would be well worth any fine a court might impose.

  52. Beethoven
    August 4th, 2016 at 10:53 | #52

    @Bruce Bradbury

    The US has an issue with the representativeness of its census, because the collectors of the completed forms are reluctant to go into the dangerous areas to pick up them up.

  53. Jim Birch
    August 4th, 2016 at 11:43 | #53

    @Jim Rose

    Getting by and thriving are different, the latter is clearly preferable. It seems pretty obvious that a census could assist planning and result in better services at a lower cost. If it isn’t doing or can’t at a reasonable cost I’m happy to drop it. However, if you believe your government is out to get you, eliminating or hamstringing government seems to me a particularly moronic response. You need to improve your government, or possibly, get a psychologist.

  54. J-D
    August 4th, 2016 at 12:23 | #54

    Ivor :
    Crazy ….
    The AEC states:

    According to section 268 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act (1918), a vote is informal if:

    and there are seven conditions.
    If the AEC says “a vote is informal” then this means there are “informal votes”.
    The Section is titled….

    “Informal voting”

    and yet we have someone arguing here there is no informal votes !!!!!?????

    The AEC does not have the authority to change a law made by Parliament just by putting something on their website.

    Whatever title the AEC uses on its website, the title of section 268 in the Act is not ‘Informal votes’ or ‘Informal voting’ but ‘Informal ballot papers’.

    Section 268 is too long to quote all of it here, but it’s easily found online at comlaw.gov.au, and here’s part of it (my highlighting added):

    (1) A ballot paper shall … be informal if:

    (b) subject to sections 268A and 269, in a Senate election, it has no vote indicated on it, …
    (c) in a House of Representatives election, it has no vote indicated on it …

    There’s nothing in that section, or anywhere else in the Act, about ‘informal votes’, and the idea of something described as being ‘no vote’ also being described as an ‘informal vote’ is obviously a contradiction in terms.

    The question ‘Why does the AEC, on its website, use the expression “Informal votes” when under the law there is no such thing?’ is an excellent one, best directed to the AEC.

  55. Beethoven
    August 4th, 2016 at 13:53 | #55

    @J-D

    ‘Why does the AEC, on its website, use the expression “Informal votes” when under the law there is no such thing?’

    Perhaps because the public thinks there is such a thing as an informal vote – understandably, because politicians and the media use the term all the time – and one of the roles of the AEC website is to communicate to the public how to make a vote that will be counted as one of the votes that affects the outcome of the election they are voting in.

  56. zoot
    August 4th, 2016 at 14:43 | #56

    ‘Why does the AEC, on its website, use the expression “Informal votes” when under the law there is no such thing?’

    Maybe if you directed your question to the AEC they’d be able to tell you?

  57. Ivor
    August 4th, 2016 at 16:00 | #57

    @J-D

    You are just trolling.

    The only way people vote is by ballot papers. An informal ballot paper is automatically an informal vote. A formal ballot paper is automatically a formal vote.

    The number of ballot papers (formal and informal) equals the number of votes (formal and informal).

    Any extra ballot papers that are not votes are either discarded or spoilt. It would be quite reasonable for someone to hand their ballot paper back saying that they have no knowledge of any of the candidates. The AEC would not force them to mark it or threaten prosecution.

    You can meet all your responsibilities by getting your name marked off and dealing with your papers in one of several ways – some will create a vote, some will not. Either way, you will never be in a situation of appearing not to have voted – if you have your name marked off (even by an impersonator).

    Your posts have been opportunistic and inconsistent. You want to use vague uncorroborated AEC advice on one point [above], but then you disparage AEC official website advice at another.

    Considering ballot papers is a diversion because no one has questioned “compulsory ballot papering”.

    If assertions the Australia has “compulsory voting” is the issue, then “compulsory ballot papering” is only relevant if ballot papers automatically equal votes.

    I think it is best to rely on AEC documents – not trolling inconsistent confusion.

    In Australia it is compulsory to register on the Roll and get your name marked off at a polling booth.

    It may be compulsory to receive papers and deal with them reasonably (maybe creating a vote, maybe not).

    But that is all.

    There is only a very restricted category of people who are liable for a penalty for not voting and this cannot apply to anyone who has had their name crossed off and dealt with their papers in reasonable manner.

  58. Peter Rickwood
    August 4th, 2016 at 16:03 | #58

    The simple “sample” versus “complete count” discussion misses the fact that in almost all practical cases, you have to subset the data to get at the population you are actually interested in, so a sample of size 10000 quickly dwindles to a sample of size 100 if I am interested in studying middle-aged white males living in the country. To give a not-quite-so-silly example, the transport agencies all use the journey-to-work information/questions in the census to get a pretty detailed idea about commuting flows. This only works because of the (near) complete count: a statistical sample of origin->destination flows would be useless because your trip matrix would be way too sparse.

    In general, there are many benefits of the (near) complete count approach over the statistical sample approach. I’m not sure if they outweigh the costs, but they do exist, and will be lost with any switch to a sampling approach.

  59. John Goss
    August 5th, 2016 at 18:28 | #59

    There is so much misinformation in this debate it is appalling.
    Names and addresses have always been retained in the 18 months after the census while they process it, as it may be needed for checking purposes. Then they destroyed them after 18 months. The retention of name and address for 4 years is not much of a change. The significant change since the 2016 Census has been the linking of name and address from the Census to name and address on certain administrative records during that window when name and address was kept. It is the linkage of census name and address data to death records that has enabled us for the first time to accurately estimate Indigenous life expectancy. http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/census-without-your-names-we-wont-know-how-long-you-live-say-the-experts-20160731-gqhj3c.html
    Retaining name and address for 4 years rather than 18 months will enable this estimate to be even more accurate.

    On the longitudinal linkage of a 5% sample of people in the Census, this linkage is done through a statistical linkage key. It is not done through keeping the name and address of the people in the 5% sample for ever and a day.

    The ABS are extremely careful in their handling of identifying information from the Census. There has been no example of privacy being breached with Census data.

    So you should have no hesitation about including your name and address in the Census.

    On the question of compulsion, experience has shown that just saying it is compulsory, even if you don’t fine people for not completing, does lead to much higher response rates, and therefore the Census is more representative of the total population, particularly at the small area level.

  60. August 5th, 2016 at 23:24 | #60

    I will happily do the census. Like the vast majority of the population, I’m far too insignificant for my information to be of interest to anyone, other than when aggregated with everyone elses.

  61. Aardvark
    August 5th, 2016 at 23:44 | #61

    Of interest, most people are quite happy with electronic banking, submitting tax electronically to the ATO and host of other computer based records held be government but apparently concerned with ABS data collection. On a side note the ABS collects a lot of business pricing information for the PPI which seems of greater commercial sensitivity.

    In terms of compulsory I think John overstates the response rate if it wasn’t. I really can’t envisage such a high turnout on a lengthy survey if you simply don’t have to do it. I think the problem of not making it compulsory is that there are likely to by highly correlated demographic characteristics in the group that does not respond to produce biased representations.

    If you don’t want to be counted then great, just abstain from completing it. But then maybe voting shouldn’t be compulsory either if your relevance to social planning and research isn’t required.

  62. J-D
    August 6th, 2016 at 13:42 | #62

    I formulated the question ‘Why does the AEC, on its website, use the expression “Informal votes” when under the law there is no such thing?’??

    Beethoven wrote in response to my comment:

    Perhaps because the public thinks there is such a thing as an informal vote – understandably, because politicians and the media use the term all the time – and one of the roles of the AEC website is to communicate to the public …

    That’s a very plausible guess. It makes sense that the AEC would adopt a loose informal way of expressing itself in order to discharge its responsibility to communicate with the public effectively, even though that loose informal expression is not legally correct; but if that is what the AEC is doing, it does not convert a form of expression which is not legally correct into one which is legally correct.

    zoot wrote in response to my comment:

    Maybe if you directed your question to the AEC they’d be able to tell you?

    That was my suggestion too, when I wrote that the question was ‘best directed to the AEC’.

    Ivor wrote in response to my comment:

    The only way people vote is by ballot papers.

    That’s the truth, but not the whole truth. People vote by marking their votes on ballot papers. Section 239 of the Act explains in detail how ballot papers must be marked to vote in Senate elections, and section 240 explains in detail how ballot papers must be marked to vote in House of Representatives elections. Those are legal definitions of voting (for Commonwealth elections); there are no others. People who don’t mark their ballot papers haven’t voted.

    Ivor wrote further:

    It would be quite reasonable for someone to hand their ballot paper back saying that they have no knowledge of any of the candidates. The AEC would not force them to mark it or threaten prosecution.

    I recall a case in which Australian academics Eugene Kamenka and Alice Erh-Soon Tay were asked by the AEC (in accordance with the procedures laid down in the Act) to explain their failure to vote in an election. Their explanation was that they had been out of the country during the campaign and had not had the opportunity to follow it, so that they were not sufficiently well informed to vote. This was accepted as a ‘valid and sufficient reason’ for the purposes of section 245 of the Act.

    There are two things to note about this. The first is that even if not knowing how to vote is a valid and sufficient reason for not voting, it doesn’t convert not voting into voting. Eugene Kamenka and Alice Erh-Soon Tay did not argue that they had voted; they acknowledged that they had not voted, but argued that they had a valid and sufficient reason for not voting. People who haven’t marked their ballot papers haven’t voted.

    The second point is that Divisional Returning Officers are authorised under the Act to decide whether people’s reasons for not voting are ‘valid and sufficient’, but this authorisation is not extended to all the staff at every polling place on election day. If you try to avoid marking your ballot papers at a polling place on election day, the staff there are not authorised to accept your reason for doing so (unless the Divisional Returning Officer happens to be present at that particular moment). According to what I was told by the AEC when I asked this question, what the staff at the polling place are supposed to do if you try to leave without having marked your ballot papers and put them in the ballot box is to explain to you how you are required to vote. Ivor tells us they wouldn’t, but the AEC has told me that they are supposed to. On this question, I believe the AEC more than I believe Ivor.

    Ivor wrote further:

    You can meet all your responsibilities by getting your name marked off and dealing with your papers in one of several ways – some will create a vote, some will not.

    People who deal with their ballot papers without voting have not discharged their duty under section 245 of the Act to vote.

    Ivor wrote further:

    Your posts have been opportunistic and inconsistent. You want to use vague uncorroborated AEC advice on one point [above], but then you disparage AEC official website advice at another.

    I believe the specific answer the AEC gave me to a specific question more than I believe Ivor; but I believe the specific text of an Act of Parliament more than I believe a general reference on the AEC website.

    Ivor wrote further:

    It may be compulsory to receive papers and deal with them reasonably (maybe creating a vote, maybe not).

    There’s nothing in the Act, and nothing on the AEC website, about reasonable dealing with ballot papers. I don’t know where Ivor’s getting that from. The Act says specifically what voters are required to do with their ballot papers: mark votes on them and put them in ballot boxes. Why Ivor does not want to accept what the Act says I don’t know.

  63. jrkrideau
    August 7th, 2016 at 22:49 | #63

    From what I am reading in the responses it appears that the Australian census form is quite different from Canada’s (see URLs at bottom of message).

    Canada has a two level census , a long-form and a short-form. Both were compulsory, up to 2006.

    We went from a compulsory long-form census to a voluntary long-form census when the late and unlamented Harper government was elected. despite cries of rage and anguish from everyone from major retailers and food service companies, and financial organizations to municipalities, school boards and academic researchers. Oh, the head of Statistics Canada resigned. The short-form remained compulsory.

    As Ronald Brak put it I thought we had done away with them so decision making wouldn’t be contaminated with information.

    Certainly the Harper Conservatives did not want facts to interfere with their agenda.
    I should mention that Harper was a good friend of Tony Abbot.

    We have returned to a compulsory long-form for the 2016 Census (new government) this year. I believe the long-form was sent to 25% of the population. Name and address were required on long-form, just a request for an e-mail address on the short form.

    I have no idea how long names are kept by Statistics Canada. No one, except, possibly, a few paranoid libertarians seemed worried about the name issue.

    Making the long-form voluntary led to a very serious drop in response rate, from 93.5% to 77%, severely hampering decision making and making fact-based decision-making close to impossible in some cases. Well, actually impossible in some cases. … the data agency did not publish community-level data from the 2011 long-form survey for approximately 1,100 communities because of unacceptably low response rates. This is in comparison to fewer than 160 communities whose data were not released as a result of data quality issues in 2006. http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/mandatory-census-mail-out-1.3557511

    I’d suggest keeping the census compulsory.

    Long form https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/nhs-enm/2016/ref/questionnaires/questions-eng.cfm

    Short form https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/ref/questionnaires/questions-eng.cfm

  64. Donald Oats
    August 9th, 2016 at 21:25 | #64

    I think, once the dust settles, it will be the manner of the announcements surrounding the retention of certain data that is the main issue. The issue of cyber-privacy is still brewing, but it is a vexed one, for capitalist forces have tempted most of us to enter into (necessary) agreements in order to purchase a product or a service. There is a perfectly legal cyber-arms-race between those who want wholesale access to micro-data and linkage chains spanning entire cyber-lives and actual lifetimes, and those who resent it and work hard to block, restrict, curtail and corrupt the ongoing hoovering up of all our online footprints. Then there is the subterranean world of illicit micro-data collection and remote surveillance. That’s a whole other story.

    The reality is that we are all prisoners of our own device (fn1), i.e. our desire to use services and the potential of the online world is what shines a light upon our otherwise private real lives. Short of being a hermit or a falsely created virtual person with real birth certificate on file, etc, we can’t really shut ourselves out of this world, we leave footprints with every mouse-click and button press.

    fn1: Is that “Hotel California?” Rings a bell.

  65. August 10th, 2016 at 00:09 | #65

    So no one has commented on #censusfail yet? Reading the tweets has been very funny. But it’s a complete fiasco.

    JQ has somehow predicted the future with ‘Should the census be compulsory?’ plus ‘For his own self-respect, Turnbull should quit’. Australia has been running national censuses for over a hundred years and as far as I know, this is the first one that’s been stuffed up. But no-one will quit except some medium level people at the ABS, I guess. Total incompetence – but it’s like we don’t expect anymore from government now.

  66. paul walter
    August 10th, 2016 at 03:38 | #66

    I just wish they’d stop lying when they say no one has access or can gain access to the data.

    They can’t even get their system working to collect the data in the first place. Donald Oats’ comment points a finger in the direction of what it is all actually about: The lesson they try to teach is that we are there to comply, not think, while pointedly refusing a good reason as to why this might be.

  67. Ikonoclast
    August 10th, 2016 at 08:00 | #67

    There are a couple of issues here.

    1. There was a lot of anti-government hysteria and propaganda pushed before the census. If people are against democratic representative government, it raises the question of what type of government they do want. Do they want corporate fascist government (for example)? Of course, our democratic representative government is imperfect as is our economic system. I have made a number of criticisms of our political economy system on this blog site. However, weakening the level of democracy we already have and starving government of funds and data will not aid social democratic objectives. It will aid corporate capitalist objectives though.

    The hysteria about the sensitivity and security of census data is just that – hysteria. Most people give far more data about themselves and their family to farcebook, tattletitter and indeed inadvertently to their internet service provider who recorded every site they have visited (even before government required it). All these sites are also hackable. Every business site people use from the their bank to their shoe store is also hackable. Every piece of information they leave on their own PC or put through their keyboard as keystrokes is hackable. But suddenly the one thing they worry about is census. Really? How much sensitive data is on the census? Sweet FA as far as I can tell.

    2. Are we approaching the limits of usefulness of the internet? I raise this question now we know about the DNS (denial of service) attacks on the census site. While DNS attacks on their own do cannot hijack data, it appears we are approaching the limits of the usefulness of the internet in some regards. It appears that sensitive state processes (voting and census come to mind) really cannot be trusted to the internet. Answer, keep the processes manual. Heck, it might even allow us to keep more people employed. Worried about the pulp and paper costs? Use hemp farms for fibre production. I mean use hemp varieties with low THC production.

    Why make the assumption that everything has to be computerised? Computerisation like all processes has benefits and costs. There are also benefits as well as costs to keeping systems manual. Of course, manual data can be lost too. But remember. “To err is human but to really stuff up it takes computer.” Computers automate mistakes as well as automating correct processes and its a lot easier to hijack gigs of data online than to hijack a truckload of forms. Hijacking physical data requires physical proximity and the solving of real logistical problems.

    The theory of data security must include the theory of “hybrid” security setups which include using both physically secure processes and electronically secure processes in concert. For some applications, to entirely switch to electronic data at all steps and thus to electronic security only is not always wise.

  68. Ikonoclast
    August 10th, 2016 at 08:20 | #68

    I have a long comment in moderation. Here’s a short version of the main points.

    There is no data in the census that is sensitive. The whole fuss about this is a storm in a teacup. The census asks your name, your address, your religion, your job, your earnings and whether you worked last week. Stuff like that. Whether you realise it or not all this information about you is pretty much all in the public domain all the time anyway. The other point is that many commercial websites hold much more data about you. How secure is that data across the board? Honestly, it is not secure at all. The corporates already possess and have already shared or leaked all your data anyway.

    On the one hand there is this paranoia about agencies of democratic government having some very basic data. On the other hand, people blithely give away much more and much more sensitive data to businesses and corporations all the time. I mean to those undemocratic entities out to exploit you, manipulate you and cross-trade all your data. People really are worried about the wrong thing. The propaganda against the legitimate and necessary operations of social democratic government is another deliberate diversion from the real dangers of corporate control stalking our society.

  69. J-D
    August 10th, 2016 at 08:42 | #69

    jrkrideau :
    From what I am reading in the responses it appears that the Australian census form is quite different from Canada’s (see URLs at bottom of message).

    They seem similar to me. What significant differences are you supposing?

  70. Beethoven
    August 10th, 2016 at 09:26 | #70

    @Val

    Australia has been running national censuses for over a hundred years and as far as I know, this is the first one that’s been stuffed up.

    It was also the first one to be done online. That might have had something to do with it. When has any big IT project, in any walk of life, not “been stuffed up”?

  71. Ikonoclast
    August 10th, 2016 at 10:28 | #71

    With my rather discursive (rambling?) long post still in moderation, I will add this.

    Why do we make the assumption that everything has to be computerised? Computerisation like all processes has benefits and costs. There are also benefits as well as costs in keeping some systems manual. Of course, manual data can be lost too. But remember, “To err is human but to really stuff things up takes a computer.” Computers rapidly automate mistakes as well as automating correct processes. Also, it is a lot easier to pinch gigs of online data than to pinch a truckload or warehouse of forms. Pinching physical assets including physically stored data requires physical proximity and the solving of real logistical problems.

    An overall theory of data security must include the theory of “hybrid” security setups which employ physically secure processes and electronically secure processes in concert. For some applications it is not always wise to switch entirely to electronic data at all steps and thus restrict the system to the limits of electronic security only. The census is a good example. It would be possible to maintain paper form collection, then use data entry into a mainframe not connected to the internet. Research of the census data could then proceed via government user requests into some sort of statistical analysis system which would run batch jobs on the unconnected mainframe. There is no genuine need for real-time queries of or internet connection to census data, even for government analysts.

    The extra costs of such a system would not be important. Indeed, extra employment would be generated by the manual process components. If extra automation creates data vulnerability and more unemployment, then the savings and benefits overall are largely or even completely illusory. Costs and risks will be shifted to other parts of the economy and onto ordinary citizens. The mania for total automation and cost-cutting is the real problem not the compulsory nature of the census and the collecting of names.

Comments are closed.