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Article Published June 01, 2005

Gordon A. Watts POST-1901 CENSUS NEWS (Canada)
By: Gordon A. Watts,

Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament

Progress of Bill S-18

By the time you read this, Parliament will have resumed in Ottawa, the MPs having taken a break for the week of the Victoria Day holiday. They were due to resume sitting in the House of Commons on Monday 30 May 2005.

The two weeks before this break were ones of considerable turmoil in the House of Commons, with the Conservatives trying to bring down the government by forcing a vote of non-confidence. Unfortunately, their antics did little to further our efforts to see Bill S-18 proceed through the House in a timely manner. Bill S-18 had been on the Projected Order of Business for the House for both Thursday, 12 May and Friday, 13 May. On both days however, Conservative motions resulted in adjournment of the House before any Government Business, including Bill S-18, could be debated.

The following Monday (16 May) Bill S-18 no longer appeared on the Projected Order of Business, nor did it appear there on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. On Thursday 19 May there were two votes of confidence in the House. Contrary to earlier indications, the Conservatives voted with the government on the main budget Bill, allowing it to pass without problem. On the second Bill however, Conservative and Bloc Members joined together to vote in opposition. The result was a 152 to 152 tie, forcing the Speaker of the House to cast the deciding vote. As expected, he cast his vote in favour of the Bill and it was passed. Passage of these two Bills, deemed votes of confidence, averted a call for a federal election - at least for the time being.

Bill S-18 appeared again on the Projected Order of Business for Friday, 20 May. However, both periods allotted for Government Business that day were taken up entirely with debate on Bill C-9. As I write this, Bill S-18 remains on the Projected Order of Business for Monday, 30 May. It appears however, that on any given sitting day, appearance of a Bill on the Projected Order of Business is not a guarantee that it will be debated on that day. My assumption is that once on the POB, a Bill should remain there until it has been dealt with. If the Bills currently on the POB are dealt with continuously, and consecutively, it would appear that Second Reading debate of Bill S-18 is unlikely to begin until close to the time when Parliament would normally recess for the summer on 9 June 2005.

By my estimate the four government Bills currently shown on the POB before Bill S-18 will take up a minimum of 14 to 16 hours of debate. With Government Orders normally taking up to a maximum of two hours debate per day, it would take 7 to 8 sitting days before they get to start debate of Bill S-18.

As I write this, there are only nine sitting days left until the normal date that Parliament would recess for the summer. One media source reported the last day of sitting as 23 June, which would indicate that the session has been extended by ten days. I have not yet seen anything official indicating that such is the case. Several days prior to this writing I sent an e-mail to the Parliament website asking about this, but I have yet to receive a response to my question. Perhaps the staff on Parliament Hill, as well as the MPs, took the past week off.

Saving Australia's Census

For the past twenty-some years, genealogists have been fighting for retention and eventual release of Census records in Australia. Nick Vine Hall has been in the forefront of their battle. Nick has been resident Genealogist on ABC Radio since 1979. Since 1996, he has been Chairman, Census Working Party & Media Spokesman Record Preservation & Access, Australasian Federation of Family History Organizations (AFFHO).

Australia has traditionally destroyed their Census records immediately following statistical compilation. For the first time, in 2001, Australians were asked on their Census forms to give permission for information they provided to be retained and kept in a 'time capsule' for release after 99 years. The legislation that provided for this was a one-shot thing that pertained only to the one Census (2001) and so the battle continued.

On 11 May 2005 Nick Vine Hall released the following update.

    Thanks to lobbying by the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations (AFFHO) the next Australian Census is to be saved in the National Archives of Australia at a cost of $19 million approved in last night's budget. This is the largest government funding allocation to genealogical studies in Australia's history. There will be a 99 year privacy embargo. AFFHO is Australia's peak genealogical organisation and represents an estimated 300,000 genealogical record users across the country.

    An intense 20 year political campaign by AFFHO prior to the 2001 survey, resulted in a complete reversal on a long standing Federal Government policy to destroy Census returns and publish numerical statistics only. Before 2001, no census survey of national coverage in Australia has survived since 1828. A pivotal role in bringing about this amazing change in policy was that played by Stephen MUTCH, the former Federal Member for Cook, who took a strong personal interest in the census issue and lobbied hard within parliament.

    The 2001 decision involved only the census for that year, and continued lobbying by AFFHO has brought about this latest decision. The cost of running the Australian Census is in the order of $300 million dollars.

    AFFHO is especially grateful to the Federal Treasurer, Mr. Peter COSTELLO, who is responsible for the Australian Bureau of Statistics, for his strong support on the 2006 Census retention decision. We express our thanks also to Senator Mitch FIFIELD (Victoria) and the Hon Chris PEARCE, MHR, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, who worked hard to help achieve the 2006 Census retention outcome.

    During the next 15 months until census day on 8 August 2006, AFFHO will be working with the Australian Bureau of Statistics to assist in the public education campaign on Census retention, which is part of Government's budget package.


    AFFHO Census Working Party members meeting with Federal Members of Parliament to lobby for the retention of the August 2006 Australian Census - Melbourne 29 April 2005

    L-R: Senator Mitch FIFIELD; Chris PEARCE, MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer; Nick VINE HALL and Don JEWELL, AFFHO.
In reading the above update, I questioned whether this good news applied only to the 2006 Census, as had the earlier legislation that applied only to the Census of 2001. The following extract, taken from a Press Release of Australia's Treasurer (responsible for the Australian Bureau of Statistics) would seem to make it clear that it is not just a one-shot thing.
    "The 2001 Census of Population and Housing gave Australians the choice to have their census forms retained for public release after 99 years. The Government has decided that this option will also be made available for future censuses, providing a potentially invaluable data source for future genealogists and historical researchers."
We congratulate Nick Vine Hall, and the members of the Australasian Federation of Family History Organizations for their persistence and perseverance over the years, and for finally achieving their goal. Hopefully, we will soon be able to claim the same success for ourselves.

Information Commissioner's Application for Review

The legal actions of the Information Commissioner on our behalf are, so far as I am aware, proceeding on schedule. Cross-examinations on affidavits were to be completed by 27 May 2005, a few days before this writing. The Applicant's Record is to be served and filed no later than 27 June while the Respondent's Record is to be served and filed no later than July 27. The Applicant (Information Commissioner) is to serve and file a requisition for a hearing no later than 8 August 2005.

It is expected that as things proceed, documentation relating to those proceedings will be made available to me for inclusion on the Post 1901 Census Project website. All documentations for proceedings to date are currently available there.

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