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Friday, 30 October 1970

Mr Whitlam asked the Treasurer, upon notice:

(1)   Did the trial survey for the 1971 Census of Population and Housing conducted (a) in Sydney in July 1969 or (b) in Melbourne in April 1970 include a question whether a person is covered by life assurance on his own life, medical benefits and hospital benefits.

(2)   Has this question been omitted from the schedule for the 1971 Census.

(3)   If so, why.

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

(1)   Yes.

(2)   Yes.

(3)   This question was one of several new Census questions which were tested in the Sydney trial survey of July 1969.

Subsequently it was decided to exclude this question and a number of other questions from the 1971 Census of Population and Housing schedule. It was appreciated that if these data were obtained from the Census it would serve a number of worthwhile purposes. However, it was considered that there should be limits to the amount and type of information sought in a Census.

In considering what new questions should be added to the 1971 Census Schedule, the Government was aware of the danger that the Census could become too great an imposition on the community and was conscious of the sensitivity of people to enquires about their private affairs.

Consequently, each of the questions proposed for inclusion in the Census was examined closely and special attention was given to the need to obtain a balance between government and private requirements for statistics in various fields and the degree of intrusion into the privacy of the individual.

It is considered that the questions to be asked in the 1971 Census provide such a balance.

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