Compulsory (non Census) ABS surveys - objection

I am unsure if this is really relevant to Choice tenets being Govt & no idea what category it should come under but I guess Digital rights & privacy are a large part of my objection.

Does anyone else object to ABS enforcing their will on people to complete surveys such as

I have much turmoil in my life at present where this is very low on the priority list but at the same time I have a fundamental objection on several fronts. I find it an invasion of privacy & yet another path to storage of vulnerable data… I guess equally I just really don’t take well to also being threatened from the outset …

I don’t recall there being any media or other information published on this type of thing. In fact until looking into it further I just assumed it was some sort of phishing scam…


I did this a few years ago. It’s no big deal, no personal details required. Just takes five minutes once a month. For three months.

In my case it was how the ABS worked out the employment and unemployment statistics.

Really, no issue if you are already on the Internet doing email or posting on forums.


No. I look on this kind of thing as civic duty the same as voting or obeying the law. There are times when it would be much easier for me to not vote or not keep left on the highway but life will be better for society and for me and mine in the long run if I do.

If you want governments to make good decisions about the future of society then they must have accurate information about the current state of it. If it was opt-in for those who have the time and inclination the results would be biased and increase the risk of the decisions based on them being wrong.

We complain about representative democracy not working so well sometimes (and some even want to go back a couple of millennia to participatory democracy) yet when asked to contribute some are too busy. There is nobody else to take the load; the citizens, you and I, must do it.


It could have gone under General with a tag/s ‘government’ and ‘surveys’ or ‘citizenship’.

These ABS Surveys are all authorised by the legislation that enables the survey that goes out less often to all of us - The Census. Have you contacted the ABS to discuss why you may not be able to respond to the survey request?

Not the only ask of us. There are other responsibilities we have in return for citizenship EG Jury Duty and Voting at Government Elections.


There are responses to these concerns in the ABS FAQs accessible in the above imbedded link and link you provided to the survey. The same as for the regular national survey (Census).


How did it arrive? Email? Snail? SMS?

With voting though your obligation is to turn up and have your name crossed off. You are free to leave your ballot paper blank - or otherwise submit an invalid vote. While I haven’t looked in detail at ABS survey legislation, I would imagine that you are not free to leave it blank and definitely not free to provide invalid information.

Of course you are right that allowing any kind of survey to be opt-in will bias the results.

You can apply for a (temporary) exemption from jury duty, if you are actually selected.


My guess is that the ABS have methods to detect donkey surveys the same as the AEC have to detect donkey votes. Why would anybody want to be a donkey in either case? If you are going to fill it in why not try to get it right? I would also guess that for the many thousand surveys issued very few end up incurring a fine.

Remotes areas and some classes of people have permanent exemptions if they choose to activate them.


The thing is, the Government makes decisions on ABS statistics. And as has been seen over the last year, so does the RBA with interest rates.

The questions asked in these ABS surveys are very simple, with select one of a range of options. Of course one could donkey the answers, but why?

To the ABS, you are just an account number with an email address. There are no personal details apart from a general profile of what type of citizen you could be. Age range, sex, general location, etc.


It is part of being an Australian resident…carrying out one’s civic duty to assist the government in its function.

If you have valid reasons for not being able to participate in the survey, you can reach out and discuss these with the ABS:

For help or more information about this survey, please call us on 1800 151 913 Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm AEST (9am to 8pm during daylight savings). For help outside these hours, please leave a message with your contact details and we will return your call as soon as possible.


You are probably right but my question was not whether you would be detected but whether you would be breaking the law by doing so (and my guess is, yes, you would be breaking the law). If you are going to break the law, I think it’s important to know that you are doing so. :wink:

The OP already gave one reason. I think in that scenario, government would be perceived as part of the problem. It’s not for me to elaborate on behalf of the OP though.

That used to be the case for the Census too. Then the ABS broke that for the Census. So I would be cautious about making assumptions about what happens to your data inside the ABS in respect of a survey such as is being discussed here.


Technically yes you are.

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Uh - the AEC could not reasonably seek to identify and remove what was thought to be a ‘donkey vote’. This would be a judgement call even if driven by some fancy algorithm - and just because someone has numbered boxes in the order in which they appear that does not mean they did not intend to vote for candidates in that order.

I would be extremely concerned at any voting system that sought to exclude any vote that met the basic criteria of having been cast by a registered voter and recording some preference. If we stray from that we quickly find ourselves in ‘hanging chad’ and ‘find me those missing votes’ territory.

The ABS over many years has clearly recommended to government that the Census remain as anonymous as practical. Some government or another decided that it should not be. All of us lose from that decision, as it means that many Australians will not trust the Census to properly secure personal information and so will provide incomplete and inaccurate answers.

One can only hope that this is fixed in time for the next Census in 2026. (I have no real idea why the Census should collect our names and addresses to start with, but apparently it has a rich history.)

As for the ABS forcing me to complete a survey, meh. We want government decisions to be based upon accurate data, and letting me opt out would not help that cause. I still await my call for jury duty; my wife has been called up twice.


I mean the invalid papers not the ones who number from 1 to n top to bottom. You are right they could not exclude those and AFAIK never have.

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Thanks all for your views & thoughts.
For adhoc braindump in reply to some points made & largely just personal issue obviously.

email/forums/internet - I choose what service/s to use & how obscure & or complete my profile is & can change those choices; In line with “person”, I also have no confidence in Govt claimed anonymity.

It & reminder… arrived SMail… & door knocker likely next

“Civil Duty” - GMAB - Nutrition & activity… asking permission for height/weight measurements “&” optionally blood & urine… wording is obscure but assume height/weight is also optional but regardless to me it is OTT… To what end? … to give credence to yet another media spend cycle/recycle of “3 & 5 & be more active”… I would expect that message to now be in our genes.

As for Donkey vote - where there is no choice to abstain with or without objection or protest & there is a perception that there is NO vote (or in this case participation) that is worthy (in context of election, especially considering our preferences system) then being compelled to respond leaves really only one option. PS I personally have never Donkey voted

For reasons that I’m not going to go into here I have little confidence in our Health systems at present & so if ABS decide to pursue or door knock I’ll likely pull the “detrimental to my mental health” card & tell them to Sod Off!

Perhaps… perhaps at a different time & different circumstances (& I realise that’s not on them but just happenstance) I may have been more receptive but at present they can GTH.

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My opinion: Snail mail has a much lower probability of being a phishing scam or any other sort of scam. The cost of scamming via snail mail is going up and up and up, while the cost of scamming via anything electronic is low to tiny, hence much preferred by scammers. I have my doubts that you can make a scam pay at $1.20 a pop (well, OK, you might get an AusPost discount rate for bulk or pre-sorted etc. but even so…).

So while this demand from the ABS may be unwelcome and intrusive it at least isn’t a scam in the usual sense.


That isn’t advisable as it could become expensive for you…

The questions included in this survey are being asked under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. Under the Act you are obliged to provide the information being requested, unless otherwise stated.

If you do not complete and submit your form, or answer the questions being asked by the interviewer, you may be issued with a Notice of Direction, which is a legal direction to complete the National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey. Failure to comply with a Notice of Direction is an offence under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 and can result in prosecution and fines of up to $313 for each day you don’t participate. It is also an offence to provide false or misleading statements or information. The penalty is a fine of up to $3,130.

As I suggested above


I guess you are not willing to share in teh benefits derived from said collection of data - for example to provision of social security services based on demographic data.


It is a good thing to put pressure on our governments to lift their games re failures of privacy or the provision of services, they do need to be made accountable. I don’t see that perceived failures of government provide any reason to fail to comply with fairly simple requests that are intended to improve provision of those services.

I don’t think the contract of two-way responsibility between the individual and society is, or should be, broken just because neither are perfect in their respective roles.

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I gather you have never been invited to do one of these ABS surveys. I have. And there is no personal information required. So redo your statement once you have actually done one.

It rather depends on what personal information is already associated indirectly by using your “account number” / email address / snail address / whatever else by way of “identifier” was already in their possession.

However let’s be clear about what I wrote:

cautious about making assumptions

There is no transparency. You and I do not know.

Yes that is fair enough. Given that the ABS is an arm of the Gov, and they hoover up information from lots of places, they probably know a very lot about people they survey.

But they assign you an account which you log on to each month to do they survey. And you just answer some questions. From my recollection there is no asking for any identification, nor do they ask for phone numbers or personal details. They already know your name and address, and of course email.

But that is known everywhere in Gov and almost every business you deal with anyway.