Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fines for refusing to take part in ABS health survey

By Sue Dunlevy From: The Daily Telegraph May 19, 2010 12:08AM

health info

People face fines if they fail to provide information on their health and lifestyle to ABS researchers Source: Supplied

  • Fines for refusing to answer
  • Up to 50,000 people face fines
  • ABS says participation is compulsory

UP TO 50,000 people face a fine of $110 a day if they refuse to divulge information on their health and lifestyle to Australian Bureau of Statistics researchers.

The Australian Health Survey announced in last week's Budget will be the most comprehensive research on the health of Australians ever undertaken and will be jointly funded by the National Heart Foundation.

But the 50,000 people chosen to take part will be compelled to do so.

Participants will be weighed and measured and will be asked to give a blood and urine sample.

They will also be asked detailed questions on what they drink and eat and their physical activity.

The ABS said participation "is ultimately compulsory for those chosen by random sampling to ensure the survey accurately represents the Australian population as a whole".

However, participants would only be compelled to answer questions. Providing a blood and urine sample and weighing in would be voluntary.

While it would seek co-operation of those selected, the ABS said it had the power to direct unwilling respondents to provide information.

"If a participant was directed in writing and continued to refuse to comply, they may be prosecuted under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 and a fine may be imposed," a spokesman for the ABS said.

"A fine of up to $110 per day may be imposed until such time as the information is supplied."

Australian Medical Association president Dr Andrew Pesce said the survey would provide valuable information for designing preventative health policies.

"I can't imagine the Government has any intention of prosecuting people who don't co-operate," he said.

National Heart Foundation chief Lyn Roberts said she understood the survey would be conducted in a similar way to the ABS's National Health Survey.

"The difference is a voluntary component allowing participants to provide biomedical data which will allow policy-makers to use verified data on their health for the first time rather than self-reported data, which we know . . . can be unreliable."

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