Tensions in Parliament as James Shaw and Nick Smith clash over ‘shambles’ of a 2018 Census

Tensions rose in Parliament today over the low turnout for Census 2018, with the Minister for Statistics telling National MP Nick Smith he "ought to know better" when asking about encouraging participation. 

Earlier this month the National Party said the low census turnout raises "serious questions for the Government to answer" and that the drop in numbers could lead to a compromise in the statistics.

Statistics New Zealand interim results showed information for 90 per cent of the population was collected, a drop from the 94.5 per cent in the 2013 census. 

"Why does he not agree with statistical experts that say that this census was a shambles?" National's spokesperson for State Services Dr Smith asked today in Question Time. 

Minister James Shaw said Dr Smith was "confusing his statistics", and the response figure would only be finalised in March, 2019. 

When asked if he agreed with former Labour Party President Mike Williams that Census 2018 was an "industrial strength fiasco" and it should be done again, Mr Shaw said "absolutely not". 

"We have used supplementary information since 2001," Mr Shaw said. 

"The strategy for census transformation, which his Government signed off on, and of which this census is a part, is part of a road map for using more imputation in the future. Dr Smith ought to know that because he signed off on it."

Dr Smith also asked if Mr Shaw "did everything possible" to encourage participation, to which Mr Shaw replied, "the idea that the Minister can somehow interfere in the census process, the way that he is implying, would be a breach of the law, and, once again, Dr Smith ought to know better". 

Click here for the full transcript.