Today marks one month since the Turnbull Government oversaw Australia’s worst Census ever.
So the revelations this week that Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) executives have warned staff that the return rate of Census forms is at “crisis” levels should surprise no one.
The fact that Michael McCormack, the Minister made responsible for the Census by Malcolm Turnbull, has kept avoiding the Australian people is an indictment on the Turnbull Government.
I have waited for Mr McCormack to explain to us why the return rate was in crisis, what the Government was doing about it, and what would happen to the Census if the return rate did not improve.
But he has said nothing. Not a speech. Not a press conference. Not a media release.
This blatant refusal to take responsibility is just what Australians have come to expect from Turnbull Government Ministers. When the going gets tough, Turnbull's Ministers disappear.
The Turnbull Government left the position of Chief Statistician unfilled for nearly a year, attempted to cut the Census, appointed three Ministers in a year who ignored the Census – and then were surprised when the Census went wrong.
Before Census night on 9 August, Michael McCormack made hardly any effort to address community concerns about the Turnbull Government’s decision to increase the retention period for names.
Since the Turnbull Government botched the Census, Michael McCormack has held one press conference to explain why an attack on the Census wasn’t an attack on the Census, and has given one radio interview where the host called him out for having a “better sidestep than Johnathan Thurston”.
And even now, as the critically low return rate risks completely compromising the 2016 Census, the Minister still refuses any effort to persuade Australians to complete their Census forms.
He is leaving his ministerial responsibilities for making the case to the ABS and the hard-working Census field officers – officers already under pressure to complete a hard job the Turnbull Government’s incompetence has made much harder.
The rate in the two previous Censuses was 97 percent and 98 per cent, respectively. If this Census has a coverage rate below 98 per cent, then it will have adverse impacts on every Australian community – because the integrity of Census data is crucial to regional planning.
Once again, it is Labor who must step in to fill the Government’s void. Through a Senate inquiry, Labor will ask the hard questions about why the Turnbull Government so badly bungled the Census, and which Minister takes responsibility.
Labor urges all Australians to complete their Census forms accurately and as soon as possible so that the Turnbull Government’s failings do not mar our largest national information-gathering exercise.
FRIDAY, 9 SEPTEMBER 2016
MEDIA CONTACT: TAIMUS WERNER-GIBBINGS 0437 320 393