Minister, you've just come from meeting some of the newborns here. What's your message in regards to newborns and Tuesday night's Census?
Well, I met one of Australia's newest citizens, young Madison Ruggieri, and we welcome her. There's one baby born in Australia every one minute and 46 seconds – 25 a day at the Royal Women's Hospital here in Melbourne and a thousand born in Australia per day.
But who's counting? The Australian Bureau of Statistics is – that's for sure.
And on Tuesday night we have the Census and young Madison will be among those being counted right across Australia, right across every remote and regional community and also in the capital cities.
This is to make sure we get the right healthcare, the right infrastructure, the right educational needs. The funding and resources going right across the nation is absolutely reliant on the Census figures, on that data, to make sure the communities are all being counted, so it's an important thing.
Madison is part of that important process and we very much welcome her as part of that big count of Australia – 24 million Australians, 10 million homes.
There has been some concern raised in relation to privacy in regards to this Census in particular. Are you confident those privacy concerns have been addressed?
Absolutely. Certainly. Look, the names and addresses have always been collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the Census. And we are keeping them for a little bit longer so we are able to track population flows and those sorts of things longer. So that we can find that we do have an ageing population and we can track the trends and people for longer.
But there's never been a breach of privacy, there's never been a breach of security, as far as the Australian Bureau of Statistics' use of Census data is concerned. I do need to reassure Australians that every measure has been taken by the ABS – absolutely every measure that is possible – to make sure that the data collected is kept very privately. ABS staff are the only people who can actually see that information. Certainly no Prime Minister, no Minister, no Court, can get access to that information, so that's critical.
And this year, the online aspect to it this time around, do you think it's possible that some people could be disenfranchised because they may not have that kind of access to online facilities?
No – there's absolutely options for them. There's online access and the old paper forms available in this Tuesday's Census. So that's important. Around two thirds are expected to be doing it online, so that's going to save taxpayers $100 million, so certainly a saving there and also an environmental saving as well.
Look, we live in the digital age. We've even got a 100-year-old lady in New South Wales who is going to do it online on Tuesday night. So, you know, it's there for those people who want to complete it via the Internet and it's also there in paper form in the traditional form for those who want to do it in that way.
And, can you help to clear up some confusion with people who want to know if you can fill it out before Tuesday, or not? Do they have to wait?
Well, it's desirable that people fill it out on Tuesday. It's that snapshot of what people are doing on that particular night. But people – already 145,000 of them – have filled it out online. People will also fill it out afterwards too.
And I do want to assure people that fines will only be issued, only be imposed, on people who deliberately don't want to fill the Census out and refuse to do so. There has been some concern that people are going to be fined $180 per day for not having filled it out. But they have until mid to late September to fill the online forms in, to fill the paper forms in. So there's a very long grace period from the ABS.
The ABS needs the data, governments need the data, to be able to properly roll out and resource funding for all sorts of communities – whether they're regional, whether they're capital cities.
It's great that Madison has become part of that process. Born yesterday, part of the 21016 Census, and there are – dare I say – thousands of babies across Australia who are going to be part of that process because, you know, all the newborns are counted too. It's a snapshot of Australia. It's a snapshot of what's going on here at the Royal Women's Hospital, but it's also a snapshot of communities right across the nation.
So there's no danger of double counting? If people have already filled out the Census on Tuesday night but then they end up being somewhere else on Tuesday night and they're counted again?
That's something the ABS would address, but I would say not. We absolutely need to get the data in. It's important that people acknowledge it is a snapshot of what happens on Tuesday night. But they can call the call centre and get any information if they feel as though they need to re-do something. So that's something for the call centre and certainly people can put that enquiry to them.
How much does the Census cost?
That's a matter for the ABS. But it is several hundred million dollars. It's an important investment in Australia's future, an important investment in where money is spent by Government, not just federally but certainly state and local as well.