Thursday, 19 February 2015

Abbott government wants to abolish the Australian census to save a few dollars

An article in The Age today made me stop and ponder - what will the genealogists and historians of the future think about the Abbott government's plan to scrap the 2016 Australian census? The census costs a lot to operate and process. In 2011, the cost for the Australian census was about $440 million. The upcoming 2016 census is going to cost even more, as it will be the first Australian census to be done primarily on computer, so the Australian Bureau of Statistics has been updating their systems to cope.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day, Prime Minister Tony Abbott will make the decision based purely on monetary terms. This is a PM who has manufactured a "budget crisis" to justify his cuts to healthcare, education and welfare, while at the same time cutting the carbon tax (which the government's own figures suggest was working to reduce emissions) and mining taxes and completely ruling out making multinationals pay their fair share of tax or staying out tax roots for the wealthy.

There are arguments for and against scrapping the census, but as a budding amateur genealogist, I am thankful that the early UK censuses were done and that the results were kept. I have found a lot of my ancestors by searching the census. Will genealogists in the future have these resources available, or will there be other sources of information that will make the census irrelevant to them?

Is the census a relevant tool these days? Will the information collected be relevant to researchers in the future? I really don't know, but I am afraid that the decision will be made by the wrong people for all the wrong reasons.

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