New census sexuality questions removed after feedback from minister

Reports have emerged that new questions that included sexuality and gender identity were dumped from the census after feedback from government minister Michael Sukkar.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed to Senate Estimates that of the 40,000 test forms of the census, 20,000 of those which featured new questions about gender and sexuality were destroyed.

Australian Statistician David Kalisch of the ABS said that while Assistant Treasurer Sukkar ‘expressed a preference’ for which form he’d prefer, but that the final decision was Kalisch’s “ultimate call.”

The new questions were developed through a community consultation process back in 2018, with two questions on sexuality and gender proposed to improve understand of LGBTIQ+ populations in Australia.

In response to Senate Estimates questions Kalisch said that he had had no contact with Prime Minister Scott Morrison over the decision, and that Michael Sukkar’s office did not “provide any guidance” but did “express a preference.”

Michael Sukkar has been a vocal opponent of the LGBTIQ+ community, abstaining from voting on marriage equality in 2017 after the Australian people returned an overwhelming ‘Yes’ in the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, and pinning the blame for ‘hate speech’ during the marriage debate on supporters of equal marriage.

Kalisch also conceded that there were some sensitivities around the sexuality and gender questions, which could “challenge” some people in the wider community.

The National LGBTI Health Alliance, the peak body for queer health in Australia, has renewed calls to include new questions on sexuality and gender in the upcoming 2021 census.

It is disappointing that the decision to exclude questions on sexual orientation and gender identity in the Census test by the ABS seems to have not been based on good process or been informed by the evidence presented during the public consultation processes and community testing,” Alliance chair Philippa Moss said in a statement.

“It appears that the decision has come down to personal opinions of individuals who have negated the huge need for this data, a need that has been voiced by a significant number of health experts, academics and community organisations.”

Nicky Bath, Executive Director of the Alliance, added that there is a clear data need for these questions to be included in the Census.

“Their exclusion means that vital data indicators will remain excluded from important data sets that are used across community, primary and tertiary health care services and programs. Currently, there are no other alternative data sources or solutions that could meet these needs.”

“If we are not successful in the inclusion of these questions in the upcoming 2021 Census we will need to wait and advocate again for inclusion in 2026. This is too long; we desperately need to gain the insights that the Census will provide to us so that health and social services are better able to respond to the significant health disparities LGBTI people experience by making better use of their resources” Bath said.

Shadow Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones has also responded to the minister’s alleged involvement, saying the move is “deeply concerning.”

“It is now clear that the Minister’s office  has interfered with the ABS Census process,” Jones wrote on Twitter.

“They didn’t want to ask questions on Sexual Orientation. Does this come from the PM?”

OIP Staff


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