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Tuesday, 7 December 1971
Page: 4255

Mr Bennett (SWAN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) asked the Treasurer, upon notice:

(1)   How many people in each State have been fined for failing to return a quarterly return to the Bureau of Census and Statistics.

(2)   How are people selected in each State to provide these regular quarterly returns.

(3)   What is the basis for objection to be exempted from this selective group for those who do not wish to comply with the return of the quarterly return.

Mr Snedden - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

The Commonwealth Statistician has provided the following information:

(1)   In 1970, 7 people (3 in New South Wales and 4 partners of the one firm in Western Australia) were prosecuted and fined for failure to supply quarterly returns to the Commonwealth Statistician. To date in 1971, 5 people (1 in New South Wales, 2 in Victoria and 2 in Western Australia) have been prosecuted and fined. The Statistician advises that as far as possible reliance is placed on persuasion rather than enforcement of the legal requirement so that prosecution is restricted to cases where there is a persistent nonresponse and there are no extenuating circumstances.

(2)   The statistics sought in quarterly returns relate to people or businesses believed to be in a particular field of activity or to have certain characteristics.

For some quarterly collections, returns are sought from all the people or businesses concerned. For orthers, in order to reduce the reporting burden on the group concerned, statistical sampling methods involving some form of random selection are used. It is important that returns be obtained from all businesses or persons selected in any sample, as otherwise the accuracy of the results could be seriously impaired.

Samples are re-selected periodically to spread the requirement to provide returns more evenly over the persons or businesses concerned. As a result, persons or businesses with low levels of activity are not usually selected to provide returns in a particular collection for more than a few years. This is not necessarily the case for persons or businesses wilh a high level of activity as, under most sampling methods, they are given a higher chance of selection with the object of reducing the overall size of the sample, and thus limiting further the reporting burden on the group concerned.

(3)   There is no provision in the Census and Statistics Act under which a person requested to provide a return or information, whether for a complete or partial collection, may seek exemption from furnishing that return. Where, however, exceptional cases come under notice (for example, where a person may be incapable of complying, or is under special personal stress) special and appropriate steps are taken to provide relief.

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