Keith Wheeler’s Wheeler’s Wisdom | OPINION, September 19, 2016

President Ronald Reagan once said, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help.” 

Many Australians seem to have exhibited the same suspicions towards the Census.

Over a million households are still to send in a response.

I believe that the Census can help with government planning.

So how did you go?  Like most Australians who have a computer, I tried to fill out the online Census after dinner.

I didn’t use the “save and exit” option but chose to hit “submit”.

I tried several times. The big crash left me annoyed because I had not “saved” before trying to submit. 

Having lost all my answers once, I wasn’t willing to waste my time starting all over again.

Yes, I was frustrated! The whole thing was poorly designed. I waited until a Census worker called at our house with a paper form.

I can’t believe the sheer arrogance of Canberra boffins who expected that all families would have a good computer, a fast internet connection, and a family member who would know how to use it!

They were smart enough to deliver paper copies to homes where there is a known internet problem, like farms just out of Wagga.

However, using the internet for the Census was simply bad policy. Delivering and collecting the Census form from each house guarantees that false addresses are eliminated.

This Census asked for names, and I could see no problem with that on a paper form in a sealed envelope. After all, NAPLAN testing for your kids has names that are kept for years as a record. 

What frightened some people is that having names on the Census form could allow information to be cross-referenced with electoral records and Centrelink information.

Weeding out Social Security fraudsters could save enough to pay for the Census. All those “lion tamers” we used to hear about during the Whitlam years still exist. They claim to live where there is no job, while in actual fact they could be bumming on beaches, or living at another address.

An internet census was an open invitation to every tinpot hacker world-wide. One good outcome of the failed online Census is that it has put paid to any clever idea for online voting. Internet voting is a sure way to electoral fraud. Why? Apart from hackers, activist groups are smart enough to know where a few extra votes can sway the outcome, such as Herbert, centred on Townsville, where a handful of votes decided the result.

The “other address” one is important for the integrity of elections. In the Indi poll four years ago, 25 people appeared in court for falsely claiming to live within the electorate.

I think this practice would be shown to be widespread if a significant comparison of the electoral roll was made with the Census address.

A paper form is delivered and collected from an address, whereas an internet Census can be completed anywhere, and contain any address that the person chooses, including the possibility of a false one.

And has that overpaid Census chief been sacked? He is no everyday public servant. He is paid an annual salary several times that of the Prime Minister. When he failed to deliver what his contract required, I trust that he was dismissed, immediately.

KEITH WHEELER, www.dailyadvertiser.com.au

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