FAIR said NO to proposed census changes

Monday, 31 August 2015
graph showing upward trend

February 2015 

In February, news broke about the proposed changes to the Australian census - (Sydney Morning Herald, 19 February).

FAIR and the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) protested the change and told supporters they will campaign vigorously alongside other professional bodies for the retention of full Australian census if the federal government does indeed consider replacing it with a smaller sample survey as reported.

FAIR and ALIA wrote a letter to the editor of the Canberra Times on 27 February and the text is below:

Librarians across Australia will refute the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ claim that ‘the census is less useful than widely believed’ (Canberra Times, 26 February).

The Australian Library and Information Association will campaign vigorously alongside other bodies for the retention of the full Australian census if the Federal Government does indeed consider replacing it with a smaller sample survey and over a different time period. This rich source of data is accessed by library users with a frequency that few other resources can match and we can call on libraries in communities, schools, universities, TAFEs, corporate, health, law and government settings to validate this statement.

Our colleagues in the Australian Government Libraries Information Network say that the ABS census data is fundamental to producing evidence to support planning decisions, location of schools and other public services, public policy and so on. Out of date statistics would be extremely detrimental to formulating evidence-based policy. Encouragement for government and other agencies to publish their data on a regular basis (as part of the open data movement) should be seen as an enhancement to the census data, not its replacement.

Yours faithfully

Sue McKerracher

CEO, Australian Library and Information Association

 

FAIR campaigns for evidence-based policy-making as part of its platform.

ALIA CEO Sue McKerracher, said: 'Government, researchers and other stakeholders rely on census statistics to ensure that the decisions of our politicians, Federal, State and local, are based on evidence not fiction. Library and information professionals connect politicians and Government employees to the essential information they need to make these evidence-based decisions and any diminution of the census data would be unhelpful.'

Diminution of census data could also negatively impact the provision of library services to the community.

Ms McKerracher, said, ‘The potential loss of vital information for libraries planning future service delivery to more than 10 million active library users, and secondly, the potential loss of a rich source of data that is accessed by library users with a frequency that few other resources can match.'

'ALIA made a submission to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2013, as part of its review of the nation’s essential statistical assets. We made the point that census information is vital in helping to shape library services for the future.'

'Census data provides a valuable picture of the changing way we live, work and study; the time we have available for work and leisure, and how we choose to spend that time.'

'This is especially useful for service planning in public libraries.'

'We were also concerned about the potential loss of statistics referring to the literacy of the adult population.'

'The figure of 46% of Australians failing to meet Level 3 literacy standards has been widely reported and we would argue strongly that our nation’s literacy levels need to be monitored in order to ensure Australia’s ability to compete in the global knowledge economy.’