The Small Business Deregulation Task Force recommended in its 1996 report More Time for Business that statistical collections affecting 50 or more businesses and run by, or on behalf of, Commonwealth government departments and agencies, be subject to a central clearance process. The purpose of the recommendation was to ensure that all such surveys were necessary, and if so, were well designed to minimise respondent load and maximise benefit. The clearance process would also be an effective means of monitoring the load imposed on business respondents. In view of its statistical expertise and statutory coordination role, the ABS was asked to administer the clearance process.
The Statistical Clearing House was set up on 1 July 1997 for this purpose. Survey Liaison Officers were identified in each Commonwealth government agency known to have significant business survey activity. The primary role of these liaison officers is to ensure that all Commonwealth government statistical collections are vetted by the Statistical Clearing House, and that the clearance procedures are well understood by survey managers. A Statistical Clearing House User Group was established to obtain feedback from survey managers and other stakeholders, and to help streamline clearance procedures.
Clearance operations began on 1 December 1997, with the aim of examining every Commonwealth government statistical collection of businesses (including ABS collections) by June 1999, starting with the largest repeating surveys, and reviewing them periodically.
All repeating collections, other than those currently being re-evaluated, have now been reviewed by the Statistical Clearing House. All new surveys identified during 2001-02 have been reviewed, or are in the process of review.
A significant by-product of the Statistical Clearing House program is the Commonwealth Register of Surveys of Businesses (available on the Internet at <www.sch.abs.gov.au>). The register lists the statistical collections subject to clearance, and information about them provided to the Statistical Clearing House during the clearance process. The register has become an important element of the clearance process as it is the primary means through which organisations with particular data needs can identify collections that have already been conducted, reducing the potential for duplication. To assist those developing surveys, the register site is also used to provide access to information on survey design standards and best practices. There are 537 surveys currently on the web site.