Razor blades have been discovered by Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) workers sorting and scanning almost 12 million same-sex marriage survey envelopes that have been returned.
The sinister find comes as the Australian Federal Police revealed 14 matters relating to the $122 million postal survey had been referred to it for investigation.
None of the referrals involves objects found in survey envelopes, but The West Australian understands items such as razor blades, soil and glitter were enclosed in envelopes.
Australians were warned before the mass mail-out that including glitter with their survey form would risk spoiling their vote.
With less than two weeks until the survey closes on November 7, the fourth weekly ABS update shows at least 11.9 million people, almost three-quarters of eligible electors, have voted.
The response rate has surpassed that of Brexit, which had a return rate of 72.2 percent, and the Irish same-sex marriage referendum, with 60 percent. Survey forms are being scanned in preparation for the count, with results to be announced on November 15.
Operations at the counting centre have been kept under wraps until now because those with access have signed confidentiality agreements banning them from speaking publicly.
Yes and No observers overseeing the integrity of the survey have viewed hundreds of thousands of forms, with less than 0.3 percent of returned forms being coded as either blank or invalid. The AFP confirmed it had received 14 referrals from the ABS for investigation between September 18 and October 11, but it had not been advised of any objects enclosed in survey envelopes.
“The AFP has undertaken an evaluation of the matters referred,” a spokeswoman said. “Based on the information available, the AFP will not be taking any further action in relation to these matters.”
The ABS said that respondent privacy and staff safety were of “central importance” to the postal survey, so it would not disclose details about individual survey responses.