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Friday, 11 November 1910

Senator BLAKEY (Victoria) . - I take a certain amount of interest in the census-paper, not only from the point of view of a senator, but because I did a little work in connexion with the taking of the last census in Victoria. I quite agree with the idea which apparently is in the mind of the Minister of Home Affairs when he seeks to obtain the most complete, concise, and accurate information on certain points for the compilation of statistics and the use of taxpayers. But there is such a thing as carrying an idea to an absurdity. In my view, one or two of the census questions are absurd in the extreme, and should not be asked by any responsible Government. I consider that questions iv. and v., for instance^ - especially the latter - only play into the hands of a small but noisy section. To carry these inquiries to their logical conclusion, I do not see why these questions should not be addressed to the taxpayers-' ' Do you indulge in gambling?" " Do you smoke tobacco ?" "Do you send for tickets' in Tattersalls ?" "Do you play two-up?" They might be asked whether they do a dozenandone other things to which the "wowsers" say people are addicted? I hope that the questions will be dealt with seriatim, because there are one or two which I think will elicit information useful to members of Parliament and the taxpayers generally. It was very difficult for the ordinary man in the street to answer the questions which were put at the last census. One enumerator in Victoria assured me that he had to fill in the religion of between 100 and 200 or 300 persons, who had not supplied the desired information. He explained the method by which he arrived at a man's religion. If a person had signed his name as Michael Rafferty, he did no't put him down as a

Wesleyan. Even though we may try to get as accurate information as possible, if we overload the census-paper we shall obtain a number of hypocritical answers, and, in many cases, answers which will be inaccurate. I cannot understand why the Minister did not go even further, and include the question - " Which one of the Ten Commandments have you broken?" or " Have you carried out all the Commandments ?" I object to questions iv. and v. being included in the census-paper, especially in view of the fact that it is provided, in section 26 of the Census and Statistics Act, that the replies to all questions must be exact - and the word " exact " is underlined on the envelope which is given with the householder's censusform 6 - and the penalty for giving an inaccurate reply is £50. I should be very sorry indeed to see Senator Givens mulcted in that sum for refusing to give an accurate answer to question v. He has informed the Senate that he will not answer it, and, therefore, I presume that he will become liable to the penalty. I think that the' questions included in this regulation savour very much of absurdity. Indeed, they are almost as absurd as a question which a deputation of which I was a member asked the Minister to include, and that was the size of an individual's backyard.

Senator Findley - There are good reasons for asking that question.

Senator BLAKEY - I quite agree that, for hygienic and sanitary reasons, it would be well for the members of this Parliamentto know the conditions of the toilers in the slums of the great cities; but I say, without fear of contradiction, that in many cases it is impossible for a person to ascertain the superficial area of his backyard. A man would need to be a qualified surveyor to give the information. To ask a question which it is impossible for a person to answer with any degree of accuracy is only to load up the census-paper and to elicit answers which will be totally inaccurate. I hope that the Government will listen to reason, and see the wisdom of eliminating some of the silly questions from the census-paper.

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