Data on births and deaths is 2 years and 9 months overdue. It should be delayed 6 weeks at the latest. How can we assess the impact of health policy without this vital data?


Yesterday, in questions without notice, I asked Senator Gallagher, the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Aged Care, about the availability of birth data. Her response included a statement to the effect that this information is available from the states. Senator Gallagher needs to be aware that it used to be available. New South Wales, South Australia, the ACT and the Northern Territory no longer publish this data. Queensland publishes data at the end of the year, meaning Queensland data is nine months out of date. Victorian data is already available for August 2022, so someone down there is doing their job.

Victorian births in August 2021 were 6,700. In August 2022, they were 5,900. Western Australia provides quarterly data for births: in the June quarter 2021, there were 8,750 births; in the same period this year, there were 8,060. That’s all the data we have. How can we make life-and-death decisions with insufficient information? These variations could just be the lockdown babies working through the system. They could be anything. We don’t know, and that is the problem.

When health policy has been as intrusive, expensive and controversial as Lib-Lab’s COVID response, wouldn’t this data be compulsory viewing for decision-makers? And yet the best the Commonwealth Bureau of Statistics can manage for births and cause of death is December 2020. That’s 20 months behind. What are they hiding, as I asked? Data for provisional mortality is four months behind, while Victoria can provide their data in five days. All the states use sophisticated reporting routines. The data delay is not with the states. I have submitted a document discovery for the latest data the ABS has on births, deaths and cause of mortality. As long as COVID is said to continue, this data should be provided monthly—one month behind, not two years and nine months behind. We have one flag. We are one community. We are one nation.

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