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I Didn’t Put My Name on the Census

On many occasions I have written about the dangers of electronic communications in relation to data retention laws, government e-spying and other activities undermining our democracy and our liberty.

To date governments still have to come up with evidence that all of this spying on their citizens has prevented any terrorist attacks. Terrorism has been given as the key reason for the government’s spying.

However over the last decade trust in governments has significantly decreased, thanks to information that has become available about the activities of various governments—WikiLeaks and the Snowden papers were real eye-openers for the public.

On top of this, we have seen political polarisation happening within governments, leading to populist rhetoric, draconian regulations and straightforward lies, since facts no longer seem to matter. Citizens do want their governments to govern. They accept that compromises are needed but they expect the government to get on with the job somewhere in the centre of the various political positions. But politicians seem to be unable to work together on this principle, even within their own parties.

No wonder citizens are getting worried about their leaders, and no wonder they no longer trust their politicians.

That being the case, it is incomprehensible that the Australian Bureau of Statistics, with its upbeat director, tells us on the news that our personal data, including our names, will be used further in their research—all for the good of the country, of course. And on top of that the Prime Minister, who in a previous life has always shown great concern for privacy issues, has joined the chorus that all is fine with the Census, that we don’t have to worry, and that if we don’t comply with their rules we will be fined up to $1800.

Days later the ABS Census was hacked and brought down—so much for their message that there is no need to be worried.

Our leaders seem to be totally oblivious to the concerns many citizens have, and they have failed to properly address these concerns. Simply saying ‘all is well, so please just relax’ doesn’t sit well with the people who are serious about privacy, democracy and liberty.

Imagine if the ultra-rights, who are now a substantial force in the Australian government, become powerful enough to demand access to such data. Think about similar developments in the USA, France and so on. Many people identify with such doomsday scenarios; history tells us that misuse of data by the wrong politicians does indeed happen.

In order to stand up for privacy, democracy and liberty I defied the law and did not put my name on the Census, simply in order to send out a message that I don’t like the fact that people within the ABS and the government do not seem to take our concerns seriously. However, I did fill in all of the other details correctly as I totally agree with the need for a Census, and accept that it provides essential information on how to better manage the various aspects of our country.

By Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication

Paul is also a contributor of the Paul Budde Communication blog located here.

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