27 June 2017
Transcript - #2017038, 2017

2016 Census data release interview, West Wyalong, NSW

SUBJECTS: 2016 Census data and same sex marriage plebiscite

McCORMACK

I want to firstly thank Australians for filling out the 2016 Census. I have been assured, and today it has been confirmed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and by the Independent Assurance Panel that the 2016 Census, conducted on August 9 was certainly fit for purpose.

The information garnered in the 2016 Census was both useful and very useable. I am very pleased to announce ! as already has been done so by the ABS that the response rate by households throughout Australia was of a comparable level to those Censuses conducted in the United Kingdom, Canada and in New Zealand.

It is an exciting day. Not just an exciting day for statisticians and people who love figures, but an exciting day for all of Australia given the fact that the 2016 Census enables decision makers right throughout our great country to talk about, but more importantly to act upon the figures in the Census. When they are determining such things as infrastructure, road, rail, education, hospitals, health, all those sorts of things, they make decisions from the Census, Governments of all persuasion, Governments at all levels. Whether they are Local Shire Councils, and I am proud to say I am here in West Wyalong, one of the great economic drivers, the seventh fastest LGA economic driver in New South Wales I am assured by the local economic development manager Geoff Stein, it ! is good that I am in West Wyalong because this little town, population 3,141 according to the 2016 Census, just goes to show how the Census is so valuable. West Wyalong the township, but moreover Bland Shire, which is the area around West Wyalong, will benefit from the 2016 Census. As will every regional community, as will every capital city in Australia.

What the Census shows is that the numbers of population in the town, but more importantly it goes to show decision makers when they are making their business decisions, local Government leaders, State Government leaders and indeed Federal politicians in making decisions based on communities, they rely on the ABS data. They rely on the Census to make those decisions.

That is why it is so important and I am so glad that the rate of household return, at 95.1 per cent was comparable to those Censuses conducted throughout the world, but indeed comparable to previous Censuses conducted in Australia, certainly compar! able to those in 2006 and 2011. The Independent Assurance Panel has guaranteed that. The ABS has guaranteed that. It gives a snapshot of the nation, it is an exciting snapshot. It goes to show migration levels, population trend, internet usage, religion, all sorts of things are contained in the Census.

I look forward, as I know most people will, to doing a deep dive into the Census information to see how it affects my electorate, but on a wider scale, to see what sort of information is there on an Australia wide basis. It is important being the Small Business Minister in Australia to see where trends are happening, to see what numbers can be gleaned from the Census and how they can be used to take advantage of the numbers to make sure the funding is done on an equitable and needs based model.

With that, I will throw it open to any questions.

JOURNALIST

We are seeing that the fastest growing regions in New South Wales are actually West of Sydney. The South West and the West 28 and 24 per cent. What can we actually determine from this and what can be done knowing that these numbers are so huge?

McCORMACK

The fact that the Census shows the level of population is two out of three people are now living in metropolitan cities. That’s a trend that has been happening for some time. What it also shows is that the average amount of money as a percentage of household incomes for regional areas is much lower, spent on their mortgages, spent on their rent, than it is in city areas. As a National Party politician, as a regional Member of Parliament, I have been saying for quite some time that there are jobs out in the regions. There are very affordable homes out in the regions. So when you combine those, there are great opportunities for the regions. That is why I am so pleased I am in West Wyalong where the Census certainly shows that there is very affordable housing and there ! is also jobs. Anyone who is perhaps watching this broadcast or listening to it in a city area who wants to be able to afford a home, who wants to have a job, they should look beyond the Blue Mountains. They should look beyond the Great Dividing Range and see what options are available. I will certainly be having a good look at that sort of information along with other information that is in the Census to see what other trends there are in terms of population figures are concerned.

JOURNALIST

One of the key stats shows that people are getting older and I guess that’s most notable in regional and rural areas. Towns are getting smaller as people get older, regional centres are getting bigger. What are your thoughts on that?

McCORMACK

West Wyalong’s average age is 42 and Wagga Wagga’s – my home town – is 38. Now 38 is right on the level for New South Wales, right on the national average. West Wyalong is just a! little bit older, but that is certainly something that demographers will take note of. But certainly those Members of Parliament, those businesses who are making informed decisions about the level of health spending, not just in capital cities but also regional areas, we’ll be taking very valuable note. The fact our population is ageing and the fact we also need to do things for the 1960’s baby boomers, but also as far as people taking holidays. There is certainly something to be said for making sure our regional highways are well funded with good rest stops, good safe roads and those people that are taking a caravanning holiday up the Newell Highway to West Wyalong and beyond, those people who are taking advantage of making sure they spend their retirement well and healthily have every opportunity to do so. The figures are showing we do have an ageing population and that we also need to make sure that we have everything in balance. So there is the proper health spending, that’s why the Census is so important and that’s why I’m so thankful that so many Australians filled out the Census, that’s why I’m so glad the refusal rate for the 2016 Census was significantly down on the 2011 Census. Australians realise how important the Census is, they got online and they certainly filled out the census like never before online, indeed, upwards of 59 per cent of households filled out the Census form online. That is a tremendous figure – so 63 per cent of people and 59 per cent of households filled it out online, that also leads to significant savings for taxpayers. More than $100 million dollars was saved by the fact that so many Australians – nearly two-thirds – went online and filled their Census out.

JOURNALIST

After the Census gets all of these statistics on a range of different things, what’s next? What does this actually show from the snapshot? What can we determine in terms of funding, money? What can come from this?

McCORMACK

What happens now is that Governments at all levels, whether they are local shire councils like here – Bland Shire and West Wyalong – or whether they are larger metropolitan councils or indeed State Governments throughout the nation, no matter what persuasion they might have and certainly the Commonwealth Government makes decisions on infrastructure, on road, on rail, on where to place schools, on where hospitals should be built, all that information is very much determined by the figures that are in the Census. That’s why I’m so pleased so many Australians filled the Census out. They have placed their trust, once again, in the Australian Bureau of Statistics. They have placed their trust in the system and they have placed their trust in the Government to be able to carry out this role for and on behalf of the citizens of Australia, no matter whether they are in capital cities, whethe! r they are in regional Australia or in remote Australia. Certainly the statistics for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are so important too. I note with interest the proportion of people who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent is significantly higher than in 2011. That’s a good thing. So we can make informed decisions as a Government but also business people can too, based on those Census statistics.

JOURNALIST

Obviously it wasn’t short of its issues – last year’s Census. What have you learned from it? Can people trust the figures knowing what’s happened?

McCORMACK

They certainly can trust the figures knowing full well that the Independent Assurance Panel was set up with international and Australian experts to delve into what happened on Census night. There is no risk that was unfortunate, but there are significant learnings from this. Alistair McGibbon – Australia’s cyber securi! ty expert – has also made a number of recommendations, all of which were agreed to by Government and certainly the Commonwealth has carried out many of those undertakings. The Census is the largest logistical exercise done in peacetime. It is a five year preparation for the Census and the Census has always been conducted, not only on Census night, but in the weeks following on from the Census. Whilst it was out on the night and that was unfortunate, I’m so pleased that so many Australians got online, filled out the forms and either sent them in or clicked that button when they were able to. Certainly the response rate shows that the Census is not only useful but very usable. There is high quality data that has been assured to me by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, also by the Independent Assurance Panel. I’m delighted that is so, because it now gives Government very useful data, rich data they can delve into to inform decisions about where funding should be spent and where it should be distributed.

JOURNALIST

One of the largest jumps in statistics was people identifying being in same sex couples – it was 42 per cent. What does that mean for the Government to see that there are that many more people identifying, and should have equal rights?

McCORMACK

We went to the last election saying that we would conduct a plebiscite on same sex marriage. What could be fairer than asking the Australian people their views on same sex marriage? We’ve stuck firm to that view. The only people holding up a plebiscite and therefore holding up potentially same sex marriage from being legislated, is Labor and the Greens. They blocked it in the Senate and if they want same sex marriage then they should make sure that a plebiscite can be conducted. That’s a fair way. That’s the way we went to the election last year and we were elected as the Government. It would be only right and proper for the Government of the day to carry it out as we did. So the only people who are holding it up, a vote on same sex marriage, are Labor and The Greens who say they want it. If they want it and they want to show they’re serious that they want it, then allow a national plebiscite.

Thank you very much.