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Tuesday, 8 August 2006
Page: 4


Dr SOUTHCOTT (2:20 PM) —Mr Speaker, my question is addressed to the Treasurer. Would the Treasurer inform the House of the importance of tonight’s census in the delivery of government services?


Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —Mr Speaker, I thank the honourable member for Boothby for his question. I can inform him that the Australian census, which is taking place tonight, is something that is important for all Australians. The census will be used to allocate over $40 billion of GST revenues to the states and the territories. It will underpin the delivery of health services and educational services. It is important for overall demographic trends and it is a five-year snapshot of the importance of our society in terms of its income, ethnic background and, of course, overall population.

There will be three new topics in this year’s census: whether a person needs assistance in day-to-day activities, the type of internet connection households have, and whether voluntary or unpaid work or caring is being carried out—this will give us a fixture for the first time of the amount of voluntary work that is going on in our society. There is also a fourth question, which is only asked on a more infrequent basis, which is a question about female fertility. The question is used for estimating Australia’s future population figures and is very important to work out what Australia’s future population will be, particularly the ageing of the population and the demand which we will be having for childcare centres, nursing homes and the like.

I emphasise the census is confidential. Nobody need disclose their name but there is an option, if a person chooses to do so, to have the information kept for 99 years by the National Archives and then it will be available to historians, genealogists and their own descendants. There are some people who want the right to do that for the sake of their own descendants.

There is a 98 per cent compliance rate with the census. There is enormous cooperation from Australian households and I thank Australian households in advance for taking part in that. I will certainly be going back to my flat with my two flatmates and we will be disclosing the nature of our household—two married men with a single boarder sitting in a flat—which will no doubt add to the interest of the social composition of various family types in Australia. Who knows what the genealogists will make of our household in 99 years time—two married men with a single boarder in Canberra on 8 August 2006. No doubt, there will be others in this House who have even stranger family relationships, but I invite all members of the House to take part in the census tonight.