.id monthly insight
.id insight Newsletter
April 2018 Edition

Lies, damned lies and fake news

"Lies, damned lies, and statistics" is the old adage (attributed to Mark Twain of course), used often as a throwaway line to undermine people’s attempt to use evidence to back an argument. It’s rapidly being replaced by the witless exclamation of “fake news!”.  

Over the last 20 years, there has been an important and increasing need to provide evidence for decisions, both across corporate governance and with regard to public policy.

More recently, we are witnessing a disturbing reaction to evidence-based decision making - replacing facts and complexity, with cliches and three-word slogans. This is a deliberate attempt to undermine the discipline of using statistical evidence to suit purely political ends.

It is true that using statistics is fraught with complexities. In Mark’s excellent blog (.id’s Mark that is) on ‘trends in indigenous population’, he used official population projections in his analysis. He was presented with a choice of using 'high', 'medium' or 'low' projections. How do you make that choice?

Unfortunately, providing that choice opens the projections to be used to suit political ends and potentially undermine objectivity (of course, Mark made the pragmatic choice of picking the ‘medium’ growth scenario).

It’s up to those of us who seek a truth through evidence to make sure the statistics we provide are clearly understood and we minimise the opportunity for their misuse.

As forecasters, we produce one scenario - the most likely, within the context of all available information and knowledge at hand. We deal with changing circumstances by regularly updating the forecasts, rather than providing the statistically-derived approach of ‘high’, ‘medium’ and ‘low’.

We do this because we all know that the engineers will pick the ‘high’ scenario to future-proof their infrastructure, and the community services people will pick the ‘low’ scenario because they are horrified at the recurrent cost implications of the forecasts.

What good is that to anybody? It just adds fuel to the fire of the ‘fake news’ brigade.

Author Ivan

New population data

Australia's fastest growing areas



In the first update to population figures since the release of the 2016 Census last year, the ABS' Regional Population Growth data this month revealed how quickly the population is growing (and shrinking) in certain parts of Australia.

SEIFA data release

Areas of extreme advantage and disadvantage

Understanding SEIFA data


Last month's release of new SEIFA data gave important new insights to relative socio-economic advantage and disadvantage in our communities. 

In this piece, Glenn zooms in on the map, to see which small areas have the most concentrated levels of advantage and disadvantage in the country.


Migration patterns

Victoria reclaims migrants from SE Queensland

Victoria to SE Queensland migration


When Victor noticed the reversal of a migration trend we’ve come to expect in recent years (the outflow of people from the established suburbs of Victoria to South-East Queensland) – he thought he’d dig a little deeper to find out what’s behind that change.


Indigenous population

Forecasting the future

The future of south australia's indigenous population


Earlier this year, the office of the Commissioner for Children and Young People (CCYP) in South Australia reached out to us, saying they would like to learn more about the age break down for indigenous children and young people in that state.

In this blog, Mark follows up his initial response to that enquiry, which looked at current trends, with this post, looking to the future of the indigenous population of South Australia, using data from the ABS’ population projections.


Have your say

If you could ask Australia one question... what would it be?



As we've crisscrossed the country delivering Census briefings in recent months, at the end of each presentation there are inevitably questions about topics that aren't currently included on the Census form.

If there's a topic you think is being overlooked, now's your time to have your say.

Leave a comment on this blog with the topic or question you would like included, and stay tuned - we'll be writing more about this as we prepare our submission.


Free resources

Grant application guide



If you haven't already, download a copy of our free grant application guide.

We wrote this guide after our consulting team helped secure funding for over $187 million in projects during the last round of the Building Better Regions Fund.

You can read more about why we're sharing this guide here, but in short, we hope it will be used to win funding for worthy projects, by using the incredible amount of data that is made publicly available in our demographic resource centre, to tell a compelling, evidence-based story about your community.

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