Saturday, 24 December 2016

Australian Bureau of Statistics under Kalisch continues to prove that Census 2016 was expensive as well as a statistical and public relations disaster

Information coming out of the once-proud Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) again proves that it approached the most radical change to the national census of population and housing with an almost complete lack of understanding of the mood of the populace1.

ABC News, 23 December 2016:

Taxpayers spent close to $200,000 to turn the Sydney Opera House green to promote the 2016 census, without any clear reference to the national survey.

The seven sails of the national landmark were lit up for two nights but did not include any information about the census, the website, a hashtag or branding.

Internal documents show it cost taxpayers $192,000 for setup, equipment hire, management and support.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) chief statistician David Kalisch described it as a "major public relations opportunity" and said it was likely to attract "social media influencers".

"This will maximise awareness and engagement with the census, and help create a national conversation," Mr Kalisch wrote in the document.

The Opera House turned green for census night and the night before but the social media conversation was dominated by the website's failure.

There was a 40-hour outage caused by four Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that had been the subject of a blame game between the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and contractors for months.

The Opera House was part of a national campaign to light up landmarks with the colour green.

The Melbourne Arts Centre, Canberra's Telstra Tower, Brisbane's City Hall and the Darwin Convention Centre were some of the 20 sites to "go green" for the census…..

The total census campaign media budget was $12 million.

Currently ABS alleges that the national census response rate exceeds 96 per cent - comprising over 4.9 million online forms and over 3.5 million paper forms representing 8.4 million households/dwellings.
A rather strange statement by the Bureau, given it previously stated in the lead up to the census that it expected to survey close to 10 million dwellings and afterwards that there were exactly 9.8 million dwellings within the survey pool.

The failure to genuinely meet response rate requirements being papered over by the many personal forms in addition to the household ones [Senate Economics References Committee, 24 November 2016, inquiry report, 2016 Census: issues of trust, p.80].  Presumably these personal forms were official census forms which stated the person was in transit (travellers, homeless, & hospital patients) – all est.1.2 million of them if the deliberately vague assertion of the Bureau is to be believed.

The next public confidence hurdle for the failed 9 August 2016 Census comes when preliminary population and dwelling counts are released in April 2017 – given that so many people are aware of friends or acquaintances who deliberately refused to supply name and/or address or filled in their census forms with inaccurate or misleading information in an attempt to avoid having their genuine personal information retained by the federal government indefinitely in a national database for as yet unstated or unexplained purposes.


1. Previous North Coast Voices posts on 2016 Census here.
    Bill McLennan, 2016, Privacy and the 2016 Census.

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