back to top

This Senator Would Rather Be Prosecuted Than Give The Census His Private Data

"If the law is an ass then I think you should speak out about that."

Posted on

Senator Nick Xenophon is refusing to write his name on Tuesday's census and openly daring the government to prosecute him for it.

Scott Barbour / Getty Images

The South Australian senator said he has privacy concerns over the new data storing regime, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) planning to keep the names and addresses from the census for up to four years.

The ABS has said data concerns are unfounded, as it would take a change in legislation for other government agencies to be able to track citizens using the census data.

On Monday, Xenophon argued the government is acting with "reckless indifference" for privacy.

"This goes way beyond anything that's been seen in any previous census. The whole approach is a botched one and is disrespectful to Australians in terms of their rights to privacy."

"If the law is an ass then I think you should speak out about that," Xenophon said.

William West / AFP / Getty Images

He said he will withhold personal information with the full understanding that he risks a fine.

The South Australian senator is risking a fine of $180 for every day he fails to complete his form. He could also be charged with encouraging others to boycott the census.

Brenton Edwards / AFP / Getty Images

"I don't want to be prosecuted, I want the government to change its position. I want the government to say the census worked perfectly fine without people's names being tracked in this way... this is unprecedented," he said.

There is no maximum fine for evading the census, but the senator said he has a budget set aside to challenge any fine or prosecution and is willing to be a test-case and take it all the way to the high court.

Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

Contact Alice Workman at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.