Ask LH: What Happens If I Don’t Complete The Australian Census?

Dear Lifehacker, I never got around to filling out the Australian census on census night (I tried a few times, but the website wasn’t working.) I was wondering what the odds are of me actually receiving a fine from the ABS? If they send me a letter and I ignore it, what happens next? Also, does the fact that the website was down on census night mean I’m off the hook? Thanks, Midnight Rider

Dear MR,

You’re not the first Lifehacker reader to ask us about this — you can find a comprehensive answer to this question here. In short, the government can legally fine you for not completing the Census to the tune of $180 per day. (This is all outlined in the Census and Statistics Act 1905.)

Whether this will actually happen is less clear. During the last Census in 2011, the number of fines issued was just 78. For it’s part, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has stressed that it only issues penalties as a last resort.

Before you are fined, the ABS will notify you and explain why it’s your legal obligation to complete the Census. You may also receive a Notice of Direction letter warning you of the consequences for failing to comply. Ignoring these letters will only get you so far — the ABS will also call you and might even send agents to your residential address.

If you’re worried about copping a fine, bear in mind that you still have a couple of weeks to complete the census — the deadline is actually September 23. On the downside, this means you probably can’t use the excuse that the website wasn’t working as it’s been fine for weeks now. C’est la vie!


Have a question you want to put to Ask Lifehacker? Send it using our [contact text=”contact form”].

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.

At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


7 responses to “Ask LH: What Happens If I Don’t Complete The Australian Census?”