The Australian Bureau of Statistics is facing another crisis over its census bungling as it struggles to find willing staff to collect the outstanding census forms, which were due more than a month ago.
Last week, Crikey reported that field staff were being told to go back to residences even when residents had told ABS officers they had already sent off their census forms. Now, with just under two weeks left to collect census forms, the ABS is in full-blown panic mode, attempting to get more field staff to go out in the field to harass the remaining residents who have yet to fill in their forms, and could now potentially face prosecution and $180-per-day fines for non-compliance.
Field staff — who are also being ordered by the ABS to “not discuss their work with anyone” — were offered 40 hours’ worth of collection work each, but a lack of people willing to go harass the general public on behalf of the ABS meant that those hours were run through pretty quickly, and now those staff are being offered extra hours to make up the gap.
Field officers are also receiving offers to begin covering other areas of the country where other staff have rejected work in order to ensure everyone has been covered. It is estimated around 20% of forms are still to be collected.
The Greens’ Scott Ludlam, NXT Senator Nick Xenophon and independent Senator Jacqui Lambie are putting a motion to the Senate today to call on the ABS to ditch the fines for people who have refused to complete the census.