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Tuesday, 8 November 1977
Page: 3146

Mr Jones (NEWCASTLE, VICTORIA) asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 25 August 1977:

(1)   Is the Australian Bureau of Statistics carrying out a survey of Australia Post employees called 'Survey of Earnings and Hours, May 1977'.

(2)   If so, does this survey require answers to headings a through to j with sectional questions under each heading.

(3)   Is this survey being conducted of all employees.

(4)   Are employees being requested to complete their own form or is it being completed secretly and without their knowledge.

(5)   Does the Bureau of Statistics have the authority to ask for this information.

(6)   Can there be any guarantee or assurance that names will not remain part of the data.

(7)   Is it possible that unscrupulous persons or organisations may be interested in the information.

(8)   Since the recent census, is there any justification for this survey.

(9)   Why is this survey needed now when it was not needed prior to 1977.

(   10) How many of these types of surveys are being conducted by the Government.

(11)   As access to the storage of information raises the question of individual freedom in a democratic society, can these invasions of privacy be restrained by Government order.

Mr Eric Robinson (MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(   1 ) The Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted a survey of earnings and hours in May 1977 from a sample of employers including Australia Post

(2)   Yes.

(3)   Only a sample of employees was surveyed.

(4)   The survey forms were completed by employers from payroll and other records.

(5)   The Bureau collected the information under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1 905.

(6)   To enable the information reported on the forms to be verified with the employer, some form of employee identification was required. It was pointed out to employers that it was not necessary to include the name of employees if some other form of identification such as a payroll or personnel number could be used. The identification used was shown on a detachable slip on the top of each form so that it could be destroyed at the completion of the survey. The identification of the employee was not recorded on any file.

(7)   The provisions of the Census and Statistics Act 1905 provide that the contents of the returns are confidential and are to be used for statistical purposes only.

(8)   The survey was developed to provide details annually of the distribution and composition of earnings and hours. The Population Census is conducted only once every five years and in any case does not collect these details.

(9)   The first survey was conducted in May 1 974.

(10)   The May survey of earnings and hours (distribution and composition) is the only one of its type conducted by the Bureau in that employers selected are requested to supply relevant details, on separate questionnaires, for a sample of employees.

(   1 1 ) See answers to parts 6 and 7. It is not considered that the survey involves an invasion of privacy.

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