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Census paranoia

(August 4, 2016)

For weeks my Facebook feed has been full of hysteria and paranoia about the data being collected in the Australian census on August 9. Here is something I posted about it.

We folk in the country might not be able to get fibrery NBN or vegan restaurants where the waiters wear manbuns or trains or buses that take Opal cards or concerts by visiting superstars or $2 million cubby houses in desirable inner city areas but we don't have to ring the census people to get paper forms because they are delivered right to our doors.

I've just looked through the questions on the form and I can see why people are so worried about privacy. I was so worried that I checked to see how little various governments know about me and how much more they will get from the census.

Federal government:

The Australian Taxation Office only knows my name, my birthday and age, my address, my income, my email address, the names of any people who pay me wages, my bank account details, my superannuation fund (and how much gets paid into each it year), my marital status, which charities I donate money to, my business expenses and my fixed IP address because I lodged my tax return online.

Centrelink only knows my name, my birthday and age, my address, my email address, my income, my mobile phone number, any employer who pays me money and how much, the value of my car and furniture, how much rent I pay and to whom (information almost assuredly shared with the ATO to make sure the landlord is declaring all income), my marital status, my bank account details and any disabilities that I might have. I know that they share data with the ATO because I had to clear up a discrepancy between the two departments' records earlier this year.

Medicare only knows my name, my address, my age, which doctors and hospitals I use, what treatments I receive, what prescriptions are issued to me and which pathology tests I have done. Someone also maintains the database that checks that I don't buy too much pseudoephedrine.

The Australian Electoral Commission only knows my name, my address and where I voted in the last election. (I have since worked as an election official, so now the AEC also knows my mobile phone number, my email address, my bank account details and my superannuation fund.)

The NBN people only know my name, my address (because someone had to come out to put the aerial on the roof), my Internet supplier and how much and how fast I can use data.

State government.

The RMS only knows my name, my address, my birthday, my driver's licence number, the make, model and colour of my car, that I have a trailer, where I go to and from using toll roads, my bank account details (so they can top up the credit on my toll transponder), what my face looks like, how many demerit points I have accrued on my licence and my age (so that I get a discount on registration and licence fees).

The Health Department only knows my name, my address, my Medicare number, details about hospital treatments, my Centrelink number (for bulk billing) and my mobile phone number (because I had dental work done through the local hospital and they had to ring to confirm the appointment).

The transport people only know my name, my address, my age, my telephone number, my Opal card number (so they can track everywhere I go), my bank account (so they can top up the Opal credit) and my Centrelink number (so they can give me the correct discount on country travel).

TAFE only know my name, my address, my email address, my telephone number, my academic qualifications, my superannuation account and my tax file number (because I worked there).

The police only have access to my name, address, demerit points, and licence and car registration status through terminals installed in their cars.

National Parks and Wildlife only know my name, my address and my qualifications for free park entry.

The Rural Fire Service only knows my name, my address, my email address, my mobile phone number, that I am a freelance journalist and what my face looks like (because it's on my media accreditation card).

Local government.

Oberon Council only knows my name, my address, my telephone number (because I applied for a job at the library and they needed to ring to say "Bad luck!") and the name and breed of my dog. They also know all the details of the house I rent and the block of land it sits on.

So, looking through the census form it seems that the only thing that various governments don't know about me is my religious affiliation. This is an extremely private matter and none of their business, so I'm going to mark "No religion" just to stuff up their statistics.

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