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Tuesday, 26 February 1985
Page: 170

Senator GRIMES (Manager of Government Business) —I table papers in accordance with the list circulated to honourable senators. With the concurrence of the Senate, I incorporate the list in Hansard. I also seek leave to have the text of paper No. 1, the statement on the 1986 Census of Population and Housing, incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The documents read as follows-

1. 1986 Census of Population and Housing-Paper-together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs made in the House of Representatives 25.2.85 relating to the paper.

2. Trans Australia Airlines-Annual report 1983-84-pursuant to section 40 of the Australian National Airlines act 1945.

3. Australian Meat and Live-Stock Corporation-Annual Report 1983-84-pursuant to section 49 of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation Act 1977.

4. National Library of Australia-Annual Report 1983-84-pursuant to section 27 of the National Library Act 1960.

5. Department of Trade-Annual Report 1983-84.

6. Australia Council-Annual Report 1983-84-pursuant to section 38 of the Australia Council Act 1975.

7. Commonwealth Serum Laboratories-Report of the Commission for 1983-84-pursuant to section 44 of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act 1961.

8. Supervising Scientist for the Alligator Rivers Region-Annual Report 1983-84-pursuant to section 36 of the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978.

9. Australian Egg Board-Annual Report 1983-84-pursuant to section 23 of the Egg Export Control Act 1947-together with the text of a statement relating to the Report.

10. Australian National Railways Commission-Annual Report 1983-94.

11. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research-Annual Report 1983-84-pursuant to section 39 of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research Act 1982.

12. Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service-Annual Report 1983-84-pursuant to section 51 (1) of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975.

13. Advisory Council on Australian Archives-1st Annual Report 1983-84-pursuant to section 68 of Archives Act 1983.

14. Australian Archives-1st Annual Report 1983-84-Pursuant to section 68 of the Archives Act 1983.

15. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority-Annual Report 1983-84-Pursuant to section 60 of the Great Barrier Reer Marine Park Act 1975.

16. Australian Biological Resources Study-Annual Report 1983-84.

17. ASTEC-Annual Report 1983-84-Pursuant to section 6 (2) of the Australian Science and Technology Council Act 1978.

18. The Pipeline Authority-Annual Report 1983-84-Pursuant to section 45 of the Pipeline Authority Act 1973.

19. Snowy Mountains Council-Annual Report 1983-84.

20. Social Welfare Policy Secretariat-Annual Report 1983-84.

21. Australian Atomic Energy Commission-Annual Report 1983-84-Pursuant to section 31 of the Atomic Energy Act 1953.

22. Department of Resources and Energy-Annual Report 1983-84.

23. Heavy Commercial Motor Vehicles, Parts and Accessories-IAC Report.

24. Acts Interpretation Act-Papers relating to the extension of time granted for annual reports (1983-84) of the following organisations:

Capital Territory Health Commission

Commonwealth Legal Aid Council

Australian National University


I wish to inform the house that the Government has decided that the next Census of Population and Housing will be conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 1986, in accordance with provisions of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. The date of the census will be 30 June 1986.

At the conclusion of this statement I will table regulations specifying the topics to be included in the Census and an explanatory statement.

In order that the Parliament and the general public should be fully informed on the questions to be asked in the Census, I will also table a paper entitled, 'The 1986 Census of Population and Housing: Content and Procedures' which gives a description of the topics to be included, the proposed questions and the methods of conducting the Census.

The Census is the most wide-ranging collection undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as it involves contact with every household in the country. It provides a considerable amount of information used extensively by government bodies for policy formulation and monitoring. It provides a statistical profile of the whole population in terms of number, age and geographical distribution, and in terms of a range of demographic and social characteristics. Users include Government agencies at the Federal, State and local level; welfare and social service organisations; research institutions; bodies undertaking regional, manpower and educational studies; Demographers; business organisations; and private individuals.

The Government has decided that the census will seek a total of 46 responses from households, a very small increase from 43 responses required in 1981. The inclusion of many additional topics was requested by users, but the topics selected by the Government are considered to represent a reasonable balance between the need for information, the appropriateness of the census as a means of collecting particular kinds of data, the difficulty with some topics of formulating questions likely to get accurate and consistent answers, and the desire that completing the forms should not impose too great a task on the public. The conduct of the census will require the expenditure over the next four years of an additional $59 million (in current prices) from the budgets of the bureau of statistics and associated service departments.

The Government recognises that asking questions of householders in order to obtain statistical information involves a degree of intrusiveness and places a burden on the community. The Government has aimed to minimise both burden and intrusion but nevertheless accepts that some degree of each is a necessary requirement for the collection of statistical data.

For the first time, the 1986 census will include questions on each person's ancestry and on language other than english spoken at home. These questions will greatly improve census data collected on the ethnic composition of Australia's population and provide data for planning and evaluating services to migrants and ethnic communities.

A number of improvements to census data on families are planned for the 1986 census. First, the inclusion of a question on usual residents temporarily absent will allow family members temporarily absent on census night to be included in the coding of family structures. This will overcome the problem created by absent spouses in previous censuses leading to overstatement of the number of single-parent families and understatement of the number of families with both partners normally resident in a household.

Second, a change in the question on relationships within a household will make it possible to produce statistics on de facto living arrangements and children in blended families. Third, in response to many user requests, statistics will be produced for the first time on the family structure of persons residing in caravans or mobile homes in caravan parks.

At the request of educational authorities, an additional question for those attending an educational institution will enable comprehensive statistics to be produced on characteristics of people attending various types of institution.

A question on the material of the outer walls of dwellings has been included in previous censuses. This question is no longer considered to be a satisfactory indicator of housing conditions, and the Government has decided not to include it in the 1986 census. A number of other census questions have been simplified in order to reduce the number of responses required, without detracting from the data collected.

The 1986 census will be first to include Australia's external territories. This will be different from past practice in which separate censuses have been conducted in each of Cocos (Keeling), Christmas and Norfolk Islands.

Public understanding and acceptance of the census is essential for statistics of a high quality to be produced. For this reason a substantial public awareness campaign will be conducted prior to the census. The aims will be to make known the availability of assistance for those who may, for language or other reasons, experience difficulty in completing the form, to explain the measures taken to ensure the confidentiality of the information provided and to explain the uses made of the statistics obtained from the census.

A number of organisations and individuals have requested that information on identified persons and household not be destroyed, but be transferred in some form to archives, with access for most purposes forbidden for many years. The government rejects this request.

The purpose of the census is to gather statistical information and the legal obligation on people to answer census questions (except one relating to religion) is accompanied by strict measures to ensure the confidentiality of the information provided. The Government believes that it would be inconsistent with that purpose and with that guarantee of confidentiality to retain information on identified persons or households. Consequently the present practice of destroying all records of names and addresses and of not entering such names and addresses into the computer record will be continued.

The Government places great significance on the census as means of collecting important social and economic data which is of primary concern to a wide range of uses. It is recognised that, to be of maximum utility, such data must be both accurate and timely. Consequently the Government has decided that all forms collected at the 1986 census will be processed fully and without delay so that detailed information is available to users as soon as possible.

The Australian Statistics Advisory Council has given a considerable amount of time to considering plans for the 1986 census and their conclusions have been of great assistance to the government in reaching its decisions.

I now table the census regulations, an explanatory statement and the paper to which I referred earlier.