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Thursday, 12 November 2015
Page: 13136


Ms MacTIERNAN (Perth) (09:48): The Australian Bureau of Statistics household expenditure survey is a vitally important tool for understanding exactly how and where Australians are spending their money. It is therefore an important frame for guiding government policy. But it is impossible to deny that the six-yearly survey currently underway imposes a significant burden on participants. They are required to provide extensive personal information, including detailed financial records in face-to-face interviews. They are also required to keep a diary for a week, recording every single item they purchase and every service they pay for in great detail. The diary guide tells participants not just to write down 'haircut', but it must be 'boy's haircut' or 'girl's haircut', and not just that they have purchased fruit, but actually itemise whether it is a banana or an apple et cetera. If a household has been selected, participation in the survey is compulsory. A constituent has come to me with her concerns about the demands of the survey. She wrote:

Whilst I support the census and understand the need to collect data, I find this survey is demanding very personal information which is sensitive to me. It imposes a considerable burden of time and effort. Since being approached to do this survey, I have felt stressed and anxious and I feel my personal space has been invaded. I cannot relax in my home in case an unknown person turns up at my door requesting information and time.

But as she had been selected, there was very little we could do to help besides allay some of her concerns about the privacy and the security of the data collected.

If we are going to make the surveys of this depth compulsory, we should consider some modest financial compensation for those completing them. It would be an acknowledgement of the burden the survey places on people and would go a long way to making the participants less hostile to the process and it could even improve the quality of the data collected. In the last household survey, 2009-10, 26.4 per cent of the 13,500 households approached were listed as non-respondents. They either did not complete the survey, refused to participate or ignored key questions. I believe that offering compensation would encourage better participation and make the participants more inclined to accurately provide the level of detail to make this a coherent and successful survey.