On Census Forms, The Right To Remain Silent And Boiling Frogs

In response to a comment made yesterday. (Please note I am not responding from a legal professional perspective or in any other way connected to the legal profession.)

Day before yesterday I wrote about people who refused to fill in their census forms and who got fined for not doing so.

One of my readers left a message about a friend of hers getting harassed about the way she filled in her census form and how someone wanted her to partake in a survey.

The same persistent guy from Statistics NZ who is harassing her to complete a NZ General Social Survey told her that the she had to partake in this survey due to the Statistics Act 1975.

In fact this is what the act has to say about what can be collected:

24Particulars to be collected at census

(1) At every census of population and dwellings particulars relating to all of the following matters shall be obtained from every occupier or person in charge of a dwelling:

  • (a) the name and address, sex, age, and ethnic origin of every occupant of the dwelling:

  • (b) particulars of the dwelling as to location, number of rooms, ownership, and number of occupants on census night.

(2) At any census of population and dwellings the Statistician may, if he considers it in the public interest so to do, obtain from every occupier or person in charge of a dwelling particulars relating to all or any of the following additional matters:

  • (a) the profession or occupation and industry in which employed, nationality and citizenship, health, marital condition, religion, birthplace, duration of residence in New Zealand, address where living at previous census or previous year, number of children, number of hours worked per week for wages or salary or financial reward, status in employment, name and address of employer, mode of transport to and from work, time taken to travel to work, income, address of usual residence, and service in the armed forces of every occupant of the dwelling:

  • (b) particulars of the dwelling as to type and tenure of dwelling and nature of materials of structure, household amenities, rent paid, and details of any livestock:

  • (c) any information relating to the kinds of statistics for which information may be required pursuant to section 4 or as may be prescribed by regulations under this Act.

So according to this act some stranger merely by being a civil servant (If that. It might be a private group contracted by the government doing the job. The guy who brought us our last census form was a temp jobber) tasked with this job by other total strangerscan ask you information that is for most people rather private such as you income, how you earn your money, how many children, pets and other stuff that people don’t really care  to  share with friends or colleagues for privacy reasons and you are  legally obliged to  share it with this total stranger because of this act. In fact you can be fined $ 500 plus a $ 20 a day fine for not complying if they so choose.

What is more you are asked to share this with a stranger while a policeman can not ask any information from you other than your name and address in the best  of times. This is because under international and national law you and your privacy are protected from unreasonable scrutiny. You have the right to silence!

In fact in 2011 Simon Bridges the then Minister of justice was forced to drop changes to that right even though the National party and ACT very much wanted to take that right away

Now to most people filling in the census form is merely an unpleasant duty but not a lot of people feel that the state is imposing unreasonably on them. The state tells them after all through their representative, the census surveyor that all information is safe. There will be no private information published or used. In fact so we are told all information will be processed without any names attached to the statistics. However one of the very first requirements in order to comply is that you give your name, age and address.

The very things the police needs to find out what they can about you in case of an arrest for an alleged crime.

I am a child of people who grew up during WWII. One of the things I grew up understanding  was how census information was used to round up political opponents and Jews. The right not to have your ID on you and the right to silence including not to have to give the police your name even upon arrest was paramount to our freedom and our Democracy. My parents lost friends because the parents of their friends filled in census forms. When I grew up I did so with children whose parents lost friends and family because of filled in census forms and in Germany millions of Jews lost their lives because of census forms designed by non other than IBM corporation (Yep, they still make computers). And all those census forms where filled in by people who trusted their government to not use those forms against their own population.

So maybe I’m paranoid but just because I am doesn’t mean the government isn’t collecting data attached to my name and address on paper.

It doesn’t mean that the NSA hasn’t financed the GCSB

And just because I am paranoid doesn’t mean that the US NSA hasn’t got access to all data collected in 193 countries including New Zealand effectively making the right to silence when it comes down to it a figment of the past.

If you don’t use your right to silence under any circumstances having to do with your government you are giving it away. If you want to keep that right in this day and age you have to assume that all information gathering by the government and its agents is a hostile act.

Here is a nice example of how to do just that:

Read the link to the finding the victims article about how the Nazi government moved the goal posts time and again making it possible to target Jews and other target minorities. It is called the boiling frog technique. The theory being that if you put a frog in cold water he won’t jump out while you heat the water up until it is to late and it is boiled to death.

My suggestion is that you answer (politely) to that persistent guy from Statistics NZ the same way you should a NZ police officer

with the following from this website:

“Officer, if I am under arrest or being detained, please tell me so.
If I am free to go, please tell me so. If I am not free to go, please tell me why.
I wish to exercise all my legal rights including my right to silence and my right to speak to a lawyer before I say anything to you.
I do not consent to be searched. I wish to be released without delay.
Please do not ask me questions, because I will not willingly talk to you until I speak to a lawyer.
Thank you for respecting my rights.

And remember that for the last 5000 years gathering information by rulers has always been used to keep control and has always been used against their populations in order to crush dissent.




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