Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 27 October 1905

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) (Honorary Minister) . - I have here the report of the conference of Statisticians held at Melbourne in September, 1903. It is addressed to the Honorable Sir John See, K.C.M.G., Premier of New South Wales, and is dated from the office of the Government Statist, Melbourne, 25th September, 1903. Amongst other things, it states -

The following are the names of the various representatives : - T. A. Coghlan, Government Statistician, New South Wales, J. Hughes, RegistrarGeneral of Queensland, L. H. Sholl, UnderSecretary and Government Statist, South Australia, R. M. Johnston,Registrar-General and Government Statistician, Tasmania, W. McLean, Government Statist, Victoria, and E. G. Stenberg, Chief Compiler of Statistics, Western Australia.

As a result of the deliberations of the members of the Conference, the recommendations embraced in this report were finally adopted.

Uniform Basis of Estimating Population.

1.   That the census of 1901 be taken as the starting point, and future estimates of population be published from that basis.

2.   That the Registrar-General's returns of births and deaths, and the Customs and Railway Departments certificates of arrivals and departures, be accepted for the compilation.

3.   That 10 per cent. be added to the railway returns of arrivals and departures by land for New South Wales,Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia, to allow for unrecorded traffic by rail and road.

4.   That the following percentages on recorded departures by sea be added thereto for the unrecorded departures : -


As a part of this report, we find that these figures relate to the population statistics of the various States. So far as the population of Tasmania is concerned, the principle upon which the Statistical Department of that State is worked, and has worked in the past, is to allow 12.5 per cent. for unrecorded departures.

Senator Guthrie - How is that arrived at?

Senator KEATING - I could not say. I am not an expert in these matters, but I should say that the experience of the Department in Tasmania, and of the head of the Department, Mr. R. M. Johnston, convinces him that in order to get a correct estimate of the population of the State for the periods intervening between censuses, he must allow for 121/2 per cent. over and above the recorded departures.

Senator Dobson - Is there no explanation given of this?

Senator KEATING - No; that is the. system upon which the Department in Tasmania, of which Senator Dobson knows something, is working, and has been working. Surely these gentlemen did not do this as a rule of thumb, or as a matter of guesswork. I presume that the authorities of the Department knew what they were doing, and adopted this percentage after a considerable amount of experience, and with the advantage of the checks supplied by the census from time to time. The fact remains that121/2 per cent. was agreed upon as a percentage to be added to the recorded departures.

Senator Dobson - Is that based on the last census of 1901 ?

Senator KEATING - It is the percentage apparently invariably adopted in Tasmania. For instance, in estimating the population of Tasmania at the time of the report issued by the conference of Statisticians, it will be seen at page 9 of the report that Mr. Johnston gives the population for 1901 as 172,475. Then he adds for birth from 1st April to 31st December, 1901, 3,703. He deducts for deaths during the same period 1,350, giving the natural increase at 2,353. Then, he deals with the figures for .migration by sea during the same period in this way -


This loss, he, of course, deducts from the total. Honorable senators will see that this is the percentage which the Statistical Department adopts in estimating the population at periods between the censuses. These Statisticians met in conference to decide on the best method of estimating the population of the federated States of Australia. They agreed that these particular percentages should be adopted in the case of each State as the percentages to be added to the recorded departures. There is some principle in it. It will surely be admitted that they have been adopted by .gentlemen charged with the responsibility of this work, and whose daily occupation it is. It will be agreed that they would approach the matter with some consideration of their responsibility, and we must recognise that when the Tasmanian Statistical Department invariably takes 12.5 as the percentage to be added to its recorded1 departures in estimating the fluctuations of population, that is not done without rhyme or reason. The percentages adopted by the various States are set out in this schedule, and they are those which are used by the States Statisticians in making their own estimates of the population of their States. Before we depart from the principles which the States Statisticians apply in preparing their own estimates, we should have some definite information that they have been adopting wrong principles and methods of calculation. We are only providing in this case for enumeration days other than census days. Where the enumeration and1 census days synchronize the census will of course give an actual record of the number of persons in each State. It is only fct estimating the population at periods intervening between census days that these percentages will need to be brought into opera- tion. I point out that, even if there were errors as the result of the adoption of the course proposed, to the extent of 2 or 3 per cent, on recorded departures, the numbers for which they would account could not possibly influence the representation of a State so largely as to affect the quota.

Suggest corrections