Budget pressure has forced the Australian Bureau of Statistics to abandon a review for the next Census questions, which included calls to better identify the number of gay and lesbian residents.

The 2011 survey will ask the same questions used in 2006, Population Census Branch head Paul Low wrote to Census clients late last month.

Mr Brian Pink, the Australian Statistician, recently highlighted to the government that the ABS budget situation for 2008-09 and beyond involved insufficient funds to sustain continuation of our current work program and provided us with no capacity to take on additional work, Low wrote.

ABS thanks all who have made topic submissions for the 2011 Census. These submissions will be reconsidered as part of the consultation process post-2011.

ACON was still seeking input for its submission this week and only found out about the review cancellation when contacted by SSO. Yesterday it wrote to Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan appealing for intervention.

Unlike other minority groups in this country, there are very few alternative sources through which data on the gay and lesbian community can be collected. Where they do exist, the sample is usually limited both in size and in geographical dispersion, ACON president Mark Orr wrote.

Access to comprehensive and accurate information is particularly important in relation to the development and delivery of policies and programs that can improve health and wellbeing.

Several submissions had already been made by gay and lesbian rights activists calling for registered relationships, civil unions and overseas same-sex marriages to be included in the marriage question.

Several activists including Australian Marriage Equality spokesman Peter Furness took part in a protest at ABS offices in 2006 and won the right for a separate count of same-sex marriages.

More than 24,000 individuals were reported living with a same-sex partner in 2006, but the ABS admitted that figure did not represent all same-sex couples or the size of the gay and lesbian community.

How well the Census is able to assist in providing useful data is of interest to us, an ABS spokeswoman told SSO.

We also understand some people will worry about privacy, such as not feeling comfortable revealing that information in smaller towns where the Census collector would be known to the person.

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