In a half-berating, half-bragging press release today, the Australian Bureau of Statistics crowed about its high response rate while also begging people to fill out their census forms if they were yet to do so. The ABS claims that it has received a response rate of more than 90%, but it still wants more. The release also champions the rate of online forms that have been returned, after the computer system designed to take people’s data failed on August 9, the day of the actual census:

“Head of the 2016 Census, Duncan Young, said the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has now received more than 90 per cent of responses from Australian households, and two million more online forms than in 2011.”

While the release says there has been 2 million more responses than in 2011, it doesn’t mention what the actual number of online responses was five years ago. In 2012 the ABS released data showing that 2,706,581 households completed the census online, a take-up rate of 33.7%. Two million more households than that number puts the 2015 figure at less than 5 million, well below the number of households that the ABS had expected would complete their census forms online. In the days before the census, Australian Statistician David Kalisch said: “Excitingly, with up to 65% of households, or 16 million people, expected to complete the Census online, the 2016 Census could be Australia’s biggest ever online event.” If fewer than 5 million households have filled out the census forms online, it means that less than half of households used the online form.

The release also includes some passive-aggressive quotes attributed to Head of Census Duncan Young, mentioning that Australians have willingly completed their forms: “The vast majority of people in Australia have now willingly completed the Census and Field Officers continue to visit households that haven’t completed their forms. They will issue households with final reminder letters after visiting multiple times.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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