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ABS apologises for VERY unfortunate combination of words on the postal survey

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has had to apologise for a rather cheeky (pun intended) barcode on its same-sex marriage postal survey.

Since September 12, Aussies have been receiving a voluntary postal survey to gather statistical information on their views on whether or not current legislation should be changed to allow same sex couples to marry.

The survey explicitly asks: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”

One of the most controversial aspects about the survey, however, is not the Marriage Law itself, but the actual cost of the campaign. For a non-binding initiative that will not affect legislation by itself, its reported $122 million cost has been one of the hotspots of the discussion.

Each survey has a unique code generated by an algorithm that, according to the ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics), used more than two quintillion combinations of letters and numbers (that’s a two followed by EIGHTEEN zeros, by the way).

In the most improbable (or is it?) of combinations, a particular form got the lucky sequence of letters “BUMSEX”. What were the chances of this happening?

The particular form was uploaded to Twitter by Adland senior creative Jess Wheeler, who claimed a friend of his received it.

The ABS apologized for the unfortunate code and offered to replace the form if requested. Each and every code is personal, and Jonathan Palmer, deputy statistician for the government agency, urged people not to share it or the eight-digit code online.

He also said, “The ABS acknowledges that in issuing 16 million barcodes, it did not check and remove words and phrases that may be offensive.”


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