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The man who will reveal SSM result

HE IS the global trotting, career public servant with an eye-watering pay packet who tries to fly under the radar.

But on Wednesday morning, at the dot of 10, all eyes will be on Australia's numbers man-in-chief, David W. Kalisch.

Grandly titled the "Australian statistician", Mr Kalisch heads the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and it is he who will reveal the answer to the $122 million` question - did we vote Yes or No in the same-sex marriage survey.

Following three months of debate, we're almost at the survey finishing line.

In its latest update, released last Tuesday, the ABS said 12.6 million of the 16 million eligible voters had posted their vote, a huge 78.5 per cent return rate.

That's an astonishing number of Australians that have taken the opportunity to have their say. A bigger percentage of us have voted in the survey than the Irish did in their referendum on the same issue; Brits in the Brexit poll and even Americans in the presidential elections.

Australian statistician David W. Kalisch will know how Australia voted in the same-sex marriage survey before you do. Picture: Kym Smith
Australian statistician David W. Kalisch will know how Australia voted in the same-sex marriage survey before you do. Picture: Kym Smith

Mr Kalisch has assured Australia he will not pad out his moment in the spotlight. Unlike former MP Rob Oakeshott, who famously took 17 minutes to announce he would help Labor form Government in 2010, Mr Kalisch told Fairfax he would give a "succinct speech" on Wednesday in Canberra.

Just before he goes public with the result, he will reveal all to a select number of people from the Yes and No camps. He will also tell Finance Minister Matthias Cormann. All will be sworn to secrecy until after the 10am announcement.

The economist was appointed to lead the ABS in late 2014 after many years in senior positions in government departments. He also served twice at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) based in Paris.

The Census outage tested David Kalisch’s leadership. Picture Kym Smith
The Census outage tested David Kalisch’s leadership. Picture Kym Smith

Mr Kalisch takes home $705,000 a year including a base salary nudging $500,000. That's more than Malcolm Turnbull's package of $522,000 a year. However, the head of the ABC, the Defence Force chief and Australian Taxation Office boss earn more.

Australia's statistician often keeps a low profile, only popping up every five years when the Census takes place.

 

 

Days before last August's Census, Mr Kalisch told the nation "we are ready". That was not to be the case. A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack to the ABS website resulted in a mass outage meaning many couldn't fill out the census for days.

Many thought his head might roll following the #censusfail debacle. But while the government may have wanted a scalp, Mr Kalisch's was hard to get.

Will the Yes or No vote prevail? Picture: AAP Image/Petter Rae.
Will the Yes or No vote prevail? Picture: AAP Image/Petter Rae.

The ABS is not a department where the person in charge operates at the pleasure of the minister. Rather, it has a protected status - as does, for example, the Australian Electoral Commission - so it can do its work without fear the government will interfere.

Mr Kalisch can only be booted if a majority of MPs agree.

In the end, computer giant IBM reached a confidential settlement, thought to be in the tens of millions of dollars, following the Census crash.

Despite a few hiccups in the same-sex marriage survey process - some ballot envelopes were delivered to the wrong addresses or ended up strewn across streets - Mr Kalisch can point to the high return rate as proof the system worked.

If Australia says Yes, it could join the 24 countries where same-sex marriage is legal.

Here's what to look out for and ensure you know the answer as soon as possible.

 

 

WHEN WILL WE KNOW THE RESULT?

Wednesday, November 15 is D-Day. This is when the ABS will release the final figures.

The results will be announced in Canberra by David W. Kalisch at a 10am press conference, with a live feed on news.com.au.

The results will also be published on the ABS website. And not just the totals for Yes and No, either. The government statistics agency will live up to its name and do a huge data dump with responses by electorate, state and age.

Geelong couple Jonathan Condron and Aden Hemmerling will be hoping for a Yes result. Picture: Mike Dugdale
Geelong couple Jonathan Condron and Aden Hemmerling will be hoping for a Yes result. Picture: Mike Dugdale

ARE THERE PARTIES I CAN ATTEND?

Yes! The Equality Campaign, the main pro-SSM lobby group, will hold its main event in Sydney from 9am at Prince Alfred Park, close to Central Station in Surry Hills.

There will be live music and DJs while some of the leading Yes faces will be in attendance. So expect the likes of Magda Szubanski, Ian Thorpe and Dr Kerryn Phelps.

Equality Campaign co-chair Alex Greenwich said of the event: "This will be one of the most important moments for our community, and it's so important we are there together to support each other and hopefully celebrate with each other too."`

Not in Sydney? There will be results announcements organised by the Yes campaign in almost every capital city CBD.

The results event for Melburnians is also timed for 9am at the State Library; in Canberra head to Haig Park in Braddon from the same time.

In Brisbane, it's Queens Gardens; in Adelaide it's Hindmarsh Square and Darwin's Yes event is at the Oaks Elan hotel - all from 8am.

The big time zone difference will mean an early start in Perth with an event from 6.30am at Northbridge Piazza. But, as a bonus for getting up early, it's being billed as a "Champagne breakfast".

There are other events in regional cities and towns. See the Equality Campaign website for more details.

No voters rallying at a western Sydney event during the campaign.
No voters rallying at a western Sydney event during the campaign.

WHAT'S THE NO CAMPAIGN UP TO?

Good question. If you're firmly in the No camp then you may well be looking for an event to go to, but it will be tricky to find a public one. The Coalition for Marriage, the main No campaign, has told news.com.au it is not planning any public announcement events and is not aware of any that are happening.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE RESULT?

Probably a fair few campaigners will go the nearest pub for a liquid lunch. It's also likely Australia's LGBTI neighbourhoods - Darlinghurst in Sydney and regional towns with large gay populations such as Lismore and Daylesford - will erupt in celebration, if it's a Yes.

Street parties are already being planned in Darlinghurst.

Conversely, if it's a No, expect smiles from many in the religious lobby.

The one thing that won't happen is the immediate legalisation of same-sex marriage. Despite the millions spent, this survey was, in the end, just that - an opinion poll with no legal standing.

Whether gay people are allowed to wed is still entirely in the hands of politicians in Canberra. One thing is for certain, if it goes Yes, the campaigning won't be over - the whole carnival will just move to parliament where the survey started three months ago.

benedict.brook@news.com.au | @BenedictBrook

Topics:  abs david w. kalisch editors picks same-sex marriage ssm


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