ABS is Big Brother-like in new surveys

ABSCLA has received many requests over the past few months for information about people’s civil liberties and rights in relation to surveys by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The ABS is becoming more like Big Brother in its approach, it seems, in two major surveys currently under way into Health, and Financial/Utilities. Here’s a report of a recent interview…

ABS is Big Brother-like in new surveys

REPORT of an ABS interview, re the Financial/Utilities spending survey, in February 2012:

We have just had our interrogation – 1hr 10mins in all.

Unfortunately the tactic of videoing it, and having a lawyer present (a relative) didn’t work in scaring them off as it did for the couple in The Australian article – http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/pushing-the-limits-of-privacy/story-e6frg6z6-1226240259101

To be fair on the chap they sent us, he was quite reasonable, unlike the wannabe SS officer they had sent to intimidate us initially. As a result we were able to answer “I’d rather not disclose” to all questions relating to income and assets, without any problems.

I did disclose the answers to the utility bills questions – those seem to be the major emphasis of the survey – with the interviewer indicating that the ABS is being paid for the info by the utility companies, I suspect to ascertain just how far they will eventually be able to squeeze us with the carbon tax.

Though we referred to ourself as Mr & Mrs A, it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to work out our name through the electoral role and hence it is a massive breach of personal financial security on top of the civil liberties issue.

The interviewer was saying that the ABS Health survey is very intrusive and they are (rightly) having some push back regarding urine samples and wearing a pedometer for a week!

My advice to others who get door stepped with this financial survey or, worse still, the health survey is to first try the put them off tactics (video) and if not answer “Won’t disclose” to anything relating to income and assets.

The East German government would have been proud of the ABS.

(name withheld)

2 Comments

  1. I, too, have been subjected to the ‘Gestapo’ tactics of the ABS. A man arrived on my doorstep – it was dark – and wanted to come in. The last time I let a total stranger into my home…well, there wasn’t a last time. I said I did not wish to participate in their 8 month long interrogation. So they sent a letter, with a threat…if I did not fill out their interrogation forms, they would send another man. Nice. But now, they’ve simply sent a registered package…it’s waiting at home…can’t wait to see whether Adolf or Joseph wrote it. Personally, I find their tactics quite disgraceful – offensive to say the least. Thanks for the info on not wishing to disclose…that’s how I feel.

    And as to their offer for me to meet with them elsewhere…(a) I work full time (b) My son is ill, in hospital, and I visit him most nights and weekends (c) I care for my ageing parents, one of whom has dementia…so my time (and patience) is limited. But okay, would it be alright, I wonder, if I went to the home of the interviewer? And would he mind giving me a chair, a table…and let me look around his personal abode? Hmm?

    MW
  2. As an ex ABS senior officer, I find the East German reference offensive and it is cleat that many do not understand the role of the ABS and the lengths it goes to to protect peoples privacy. Unlike many countries the ABS does not keep a record of your name and address as reported in the census unless you give explicit approval for them to do so.

    Likewise names and addresses in surveys are not stored beyond the processing period of the survey.
    The surveys that the ABS conduct are not undertaken lightly. As for the comment “interviewer indicating that the ABS is being paid for the info by the utility companies” is misleading to say the least. Any statistics produced by the ABS are available to all Australians including power companies, however, the ABS would not undertake a survey on behalf of utility companies. I would expect that the promoters of the survey referred to were most likely the government departments with an interest in social security benefit level, stress of utility bills on families, etc and perhaps the environment.

    As for the the question of matching the commentators data with the electoral role, that would contravene the Census and Statistics Act. Why anyone could be bothered doing it anyway is beyond me.
    Perhaps CLA should seek comment and advice from the ABS.

    David Groube

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