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Thursday, 18 September 2003
Page: 20550


Mr COX (9:59 AM) —The main purpose of the Statistics Legislation Amendment Bill 2003 is to rectify a number of technical deficiencies in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 that are an unintended consequence of previous sets of amendments by both this government and the previous one. In particular, the bill seeks to make some amendments which ensure that the secrecy provisions apply to people who retired or resigned from the Australian Bureau of Statistics prior to 1999.

I am not aware of any problems that have arisen with people not sticking to what they would have understood to be their secrecy obligations, and indeed the Australian Bureau of Statistics has an absolutely exemplary record in terms of maintenance of its secrecy provisions. I am always able to assure constituents who ring me when they are concerned about having to respond to ABS surveys that the information they provide will not be given to any other government agency or to any outside body and that their privacy will be totally protected.

The ABS also needs to be able to second people to the organisation to do supplementary work, particularly around census times, when there is obviously a huge workload. The bill ensures that seconded persons can do those collection activities, but they are not given any of the powers of compulsion that permanent officers of the Australian Bureau of Statistics have. These are totally routine amendments and I commend them to the House.