SMALL Business Minister Michael McCormack has found a unique way to bat-away criticism of the 2016 census “fail”, by citing the career batting average of cricket’s greatest ever batsman - Sir Donald Bradman.
Mr McCormack came under intense pressure last year over the government’s handling of the census; especially challenges with using new online resources and systems to aid household data collection, by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
But after a lengthy break in the controversy, the NSW Nationals MP for the rural seat of Riverina was forced to again defend the integrity of the troubled census, following the release of its results last week, during an on-air radio interview.
Mr McCormack said an Independent Assurance Panel had stated in its report that the 2016 census had compared well to other censuses conducted in the UK, Canada and NZ and was “certainly on par with previous censuses in Australia”.
“95.1 per cent of households have returned the census - 95.1, in fact, was Sir Donald Bradman’s all-time batting average in all first class cricket, so 95.1 – I’ll take that,” he said of the final score.
Served with a suggested correction about his choice of numbers, Mr McCormack hit back at the radio presenter’s accuracy, in questioning his stance.
He said Sir Donald Bradman’s Test batting average was 99.94 - but he also had a career ending average of 95.1 runs per innings, for all first class cricket matches.
“I’m a bit of a cricket tragic, you see, so I know that for a fact. 95.1 per cent was the household response rate for the 2016 Census and indeed it was Bradman’s batting average for all forms of first class cricket – Test, State cricket – all combined,” he said.
Mr McCormack also sought to highlight outcomes for regional Australia in the statistics gathering exercise, by officially launching the 2016 census results at West Wyalong in central-western NSW.
Asked why he’d taken the census results to a regional location this year, instead of a traditional metropolitan area, Mr McCormack said “I am a regional MP”.
“And as Australia’s first Small Business Minister from a country area I felt it was important to show what the data means for the regions,” he said.
“It’s in my electorate and West Wyalong is a great little town.
“Its population is 3141 and what a great place to launch the Census data release from.
“The Census does provide a snapshot of the nation as it is, because – like I say – West Wyalong’s a little town but there are some really interesting figures out of it.”
Mr McCormack said West Wyalong had grown by 3pc and its internet per household had grown from 62pc to 69pc.
“And one of the really interesting stats out of the census was the fact that 29pc – which is up on the State average of 18pc – of the residents of West Wyalong aged over 15 years spent time volunteering,” he said.
“It shows what a caring, compassionate community West Wyalong is and that’s emblematic of country communities – I think – right across the nation.”
“West Wyalong is one of those little communities which rely so heavily – as part of Bland Shire – on good, reliable Census information.
“That’s so decision-makers – whether they’re in business or whether they’re in government at all levels – can make the decisions to fund equitably, to make the business case for smaller country communities; especially remote communities, to help them plan and ultimately grow.
“That’s what the Census does.
“It’s a snapshot as it is at that time, to make informed decisions when it comes to Government allocating funds and businesses building.”
Mr McCormack said the census was held every five year’s results contained more than 68 million facts in 2.8 million tables.
“It does show the majority of people live in the eastern State capitals – that’s a real take-home statistic,” he said.
“But the other one too is the fact that housing affordability is a really interesting stat out of the census.
“The fact is the percentage of incomes being spent on mortgages and on rents is far, far lower in regional areas.
The other thing I want people to remember – I have said it before and I will keep saying it – there are jobs in regional Australia for those people who want them and there are good-paying jobs as well.
“It’s not always about living in the city, and as a National Party member and as a country MP, I will always plug country areas.
“They are a great place to live, to raise a family in and to work and invest.”
Mr McCormack said this year’s results also showed that within capital city areas there was a 10.5pc growth in population since 2011 - nearly double the rate found in other areas (5.7pc).
He said more than 15 million people (67pc) are now living in a capital city.