Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Senseless Night

Yes, last night was Senseless Census Night in Australia, that exciting once-every-five-years night of nights where everyone in the country has to tell the government exactly who is in their house, why they are there, and what colour their underwear is. From this incredible deluge of information, statisticians can plan the future of Australian policy, public works budgets, education, and social welfare - which makes you really worry when you read things like this on the Australian Bureau of Statistics 'Census FAQ' web page:

What is the Census?
"measure the number of persons in Australia on Census Night, their key characteristics…" - They want me to describe all my keys!?
"The next Census is to be conducted on August 7, 2001… This page published 13 June 2002" - And they trust their own ability to deal with numbers?

What are the benefits of having a census?
"one of the few sources of detailed statistical information…" - Apart from the Tax Department, Centrelink, Dept of Transport, Telstra, Employers, …
"primarily for electoral purposes and the distribution of government funds…" - Proof positive that they bribe you into voting for them!

How does the ABS ensure my privacy?
"it is not concerned with information about individuals…" - That's why most of the questions are about individuals.
"provisions in the Census and Statistics Act 1905…" - another 100-year-old law in action.

How does the ABS ensure that all Australians are included in the Census count?
"the ABS has developed strategies to maximise the effectiveness of collecting information…" - Their names are Louie and Bruno.

Indigenous Australians
"Counting young males, children and visitors…" - What, aboriginal adults are exempt from the census?
"quality assurance, validation…" - In other words, we'd better have someone on hand to fill it in for them and make sure they understand the questions."

Cultural diversity
"ABS consults closely with migrant government and community organisations…" - But doesn't tell them anything while doing so, because of the privacy thing.
"communities where there may be reluctant to give personal information to a government agency…" - Like they would have had to do to get into Australia in the first place?

The homeless
"identify locations where homeless people might be found…" - So they can't escape Louie and Bruno by hiding in an alley all night.
"less intimidating question forms for homeless people with low literacy…" - Intimidating questions? These people are attacked by the forms!?"

Why does it take so long from the time of collection to release the data?
"collection, capture, coding, and validation of over 700 million responses…" - And given there are only 20 million people in Australia, are you guys sure you know how to add?
"capture, code and validate the responses…" - So if they don't like your answer, once they've caught your form out of the cage that is, they make up their own response?
"data and products produced from the 1996 Census were released earlier than for the 1991 Census…" - Four of five years before the 1996 census obviously.
"A release schedule similar to the 1996 Census will be implemented for 2001 Census output…" - So the 2001 census info will be released in 1997 at the same time as the 1996 info?

2001 Census and the question on religion
"religious organisations provide a range of services to the community, such as education, hospitals, and aged care facilities…" - So what's left for the government to pay for?
"For a group to be included in the ABS classification of religion, it would have to show that there was an underlying belief system or philosophy…" - So why complain that so many people wrote 'Jedi' last time?

Unpaid Work
"ABS estimates the value of unpaid work to be around $250 billion a year…" - Again, not to demean your mathematical abilities guys, but if its unpaid, its value is $0.00 a year.

What is the Centenary of Federation Census Time Capsule Project?
"disclose to people of the 22nd century a wealth of detail…" - If they can find it under all the rubble and the radiation hasn't decayed it.
"choice of having their names, addresses and Census form information retained by the National Archives of Australia and released for research purposes after 99 years…" - So if the status of Person 2 on census night in your house is 'casual root', remember to say 'No' to information release or else be hit with a paternity case when you're 125.

ABS FAQ page
Key National Indicators

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