As the accountable authority of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), I present the 2017–18 annual performance statements of the ABS, as required under paragraph 39(1)(a) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). In my opinion, based on advice from ABS management and the Audit Committee, these performance statements accurately reflect the performance of the ABS against the performance criteria included in its Portfolio Budget Statement1 and Corporate Plan, and comply with subsection 39(2) of the PGPA Act.
David W. Kalisch
The ABS Purpose is to inform Australia’s important decisions by partnering and innovating to deliver relevant, trusted, objective data, statistics and insights.
Results against the criteria from the ABS Corporate Plan 2017–18 to 2020–21 and the ABS Portfolio Budget Statement (PBS) are described below. All results related to one programme in the Treasury Portfolio Budget Statement:1.1 Australian Bureau of Statistics and the ABS Corporate Plan.
OUR ACHIEVEMENTS – PERFORMANCE AGAINST PURPOSE
During 2017–18, the ABS has delivered and also commenced many significant initiatives aligned to fulfilling the purpose of informing Australia’s important decisions, while operating in a challenging fiscal and resource environment. These include delivering the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey (AMLPS), delivering high quality data from the 2016 Census of Population and Housing, establishing the work programs to support the Data Integration Partnership for Australia initiative, as well as continuing to deliver the ABS Transformation Program, with particular focus on statistical business, people and culture transformation initiatives. Through the delivery of the core work program, as well as the work to support government initiatives, the ABS continues to enable governments, businesses and the community to be better informed to make decisions, ultimately enhancing the wellbeing of all Australians.
In 2017, the Treasurer directed the ABS to conduct a voluntary survey on whether the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry. Statistics were published from the AMLPS fewer than 100 days from the announcement. These statistics directly informed a significant policy and legal change in Australia. The survey achieved a 79.5% participation rate, with consistent distribution across age groups, gender and geography, demonstrating that ABS delivers trusted, objective statistics which inform Australia’s important decisions. While the survey was a success, and was delivered effectively with the partnership of a number of government departments and private agencies, there was a significant resource impact on the organisation as a result of diverting a large number of highly skilled resources away from the core and transformation work program to deliver the AMLPS. The AMLPS delivery has had a direct impact on the transformation schedule and benefits realisation.
The ABS was awarded the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) 2018 Public Sector Innovation Award for Citizen-Centred Innovation for the AMLPS. This prestigious award positions the ABS as a leader in innovation, applying new and effective methods to problem solving and project delivery.
The Citizen-Centred Innovation Award recognises departments who have worked with citizens to design and deliver innovative public services. This involves getting to the heart of the citizen’s needs to personalise and ultimately improve the citizen’s experience of interaction with government agencies.
The ABS also received the Public Sector Award at the Australian Multicultural Marketing Awards (AMMAs), for the 2016 Census campaign with multicultural marketing agency, Etcom. Together with Etcom, the ABS delivered the largest ever national culturally and linguistically diverse Census campaign. Campaign materials were translated into up to 35 languages across multiple platforms and connected with more than 120 multicultural organisations. The campaign proved incredibly successful with particularly high online response rates for people born in China (90.0%), India (85.4%) and Malaysia (82.4%).
In 2017, the Government also funded the Data Integration Partnership of Australia (DIPA) as a coordinated Australian Public Service-wide investment to maximise the use and value of the Government’s data assets through data integration. The ABS was entrusted to be the primary Accredited Integrating Authority for the DIPA, and was funded $37.7 million over three years to work collaboratively with data custodians to produce enduring linked data assets which combine high value data sources to better support policy development, while maintaining security and privacy of information. This initiative is directly aligned to the strategic priority of developing and implementing new statistical solutions to maximise the value of public data, through investing in stakeholder collaboration and ensuring solutions add value to stakeholders.
Stakeholders are continuing to partner with the ABS on a range of innovative projects such as CPI enhancements and changes in the approach for the Agricultural Census, as demonstrated in the case studies, and are engaging resources to build their own capability to enable better use of the range of statistical products provided by the ABS, as demonstrated through the number of new agreements and secondments that have been initiated throughout the year. Enabling the use of ABS products, either through technical solutions, data outputs or developing capability, is a high priority for the ABS to ensure ABS statistics are widely used and insights can be drawn and utilised to inform decision making. This is demonstrated through the data use and data access measures.
The ABS has undergone a number of phased organisation restructures to ensure it maintains contemporary organisation and governance structures that are designed to meet the needs of the ABS as it progresses through transformation. Changes in the Statistical Services Group structure have reflected a focus on functional alignment across Industry and Macroeconomic statistics. Changes in the Human Resource structure have enabled the People Services Branch to prioritise workforce planning, which is a key identified focus for the ABS in achieving a successful transformation. Both the People and Culture Action Plan (Target 2.3) and the Workforce Strategy (Target 2.4) have continued to be implemented to ensure we are consolidating and enhancing our capability to keep pace with the changing needs of stakeholders and to ensure future sustainability. This includes champions of change, recruiting, graduate programs, workforce planning, job design and activity based working.
Building on our stakeholder relationships has been an ongoing priority to ensure we continue to deliver relevant, trusted and objective statistics and that we are considered trusted and innovative partners. To ensure we maintain focus on our stakeholders, the two-yearly in-depth assessment with key stakeholders has been supplemented by an annual online survey with a range of stakeholders. Our SES also provided feedback on relationships with stakeholders. This will ensure we are delivering the highest priority statistics to inform important decisions. The results reflect that stakeholders are satisfied with the quality, timeliness and range of our statistics (Target 1.2), the uptake of statistics increases each year, including stakeholders reporting increased usage of statistics, data and insights in their work (Target 1.3) and stakeholders agree ABS adds value to their business (Target 3.3). Feedback via the assessment has also identified areas of high importance to stakeholders that the ABS can continue to work on to ensure a customer focus is at the centre of the ABS approach.
Managing risk has been a high focus area for 2017–18. The ABS has refreshed its Risk Management Framework to ensure effective management of risk during this period of transformation, as well as embedding best practice as a standard way of working. Outcomes of the Transformation Program both mitigate risks and generate new risks that need to be actively managed.
The Statistical Business Transformation Program (SBTP) Gateway Review deliverables have also been achieved, recognising the Program’s timely delivery of technically complex deliverables, commitment to continuous improvement, and quality planning (Target 2.1). Statistical collections are also progressively being transitioned to SBTP capabilities (Target 2.2), with learnings from each on-boarding process informing the next wave of activity.
STRATEGIC PRIORITY 1: PROVIDE HIGH QUALITY STATISTICS
|This criterion links directly to the ABS Portfolio Budget Statement Target, which has one outcome: “Decisions on important matters made by governments, business and the broader community are informed by objective, relevant and trusted official statistics|
produced through the collection and integration of data, its analysis, and the provision of statistical information.”
|Our Planned Performance: Decision making by governments, business and the community is informed by high quality statistics|
|Target 1.1: ABS statistics meet target standards*|
The integrity and credibility of the ABS, and productive nature of ABS stakeholder relationships, are built on the ability of the ABS to continue to provide quality statistics that meet international standards as well as assure the Australian public that our products are capable of effectively informing new legislation and policy. We are also required by legislation to meet particular standards in our products.
ABS subscribes to the IMF Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS) which allows surveillance of our data provision.
|How we will measure this||Result: Achieved|
|1.1.1 Assessment of key ABS statistics against international and national standards – IMF Standards||1.1.1 ABS continues to produce key economic and population statistics with appropriate coverage, frequency and timeliness as assessed by the International Monetary Fund against the Special Data Dissemination Standard; except where the ABS has made an explicit decision not to do so, following consultation with stakeholders, based on Australian needs and circumstances.|
|In meeting the Standard, Australia has taken two flexibility options in respect of the periodicity and/or timeliness for the dissemination of Production Indexes and Price Indexes. The Standard prescribes monthly dissemination for Production Indexes with timeliness of no later than six weeks after the reference period (whereas Australia’s Production Indexes are disseminated quarterly and with a timeliness of no later than one quarter after the end of the reference quarter). For Price Indexes the Standard prescribes monthly dissemination and timeliness of no later than one month after the reference period (whereas Australia’s price indexes are disseminated quarterly, within one month of the reference period).|
|In these areas where flexibility in regard to periodicity and timeliness has been exercised, Australia does not believe that an understanding of its current economic circumstances is jeopardised.|
|In addition, Australia has taken permitted calendar flexibility options for the dissemination of the precise release dates of both data on central government operations and data on central government debt. The flexibility options are required for these data categories because the data are approved by the Minister for Finance prior to release and so the precise release dates cannot be guaranteed in advance.|
|Target 1.2: Key stakeholders are satisfied with the quality, timeliness and range of our statistics*|
Overall: The nature of the ABS business is to ensure that we provide quality statistics to our users and the level of quality is determined by international standards and partner stakeholders. It is critical that the ABS continues to build and maintain trust from its stakeholders in order to maintain relevance into the future. A key ABS risk to achieving this goal is failing to provide relevant, accurate and timely statistics and therefore this is monitored and measured across ABS collections.
1.2.1: Indicates key stakeholders’ satisfaction with the quality, timeliness and range of ABS statistics.
1.2.2: Demonstrates key stakeholders’ satisfaction with the quality, timeliness and range of ABS statistics.
|How we will measure this||Result: Achieved|
|1.2.1 The two yearly Stakeholder Relationship Health Assessment||1.2.1 Results from the 2018 Stakeholder Relationship Health Assessment survey, which included stakeholders from government, academia, community groups, business and industry bodies, demonstrated that stakeholders used a range of ABS statistics, with Population (including Census), Economy, and Labour the most frequently used.|
Additionally over 90% of stakeholders surveyed strongly agreed or agreed that the ABS is a credible source of data and information, and a national asset that provides value to Australia2.
Respondents indicated that:
• 85% were very satisfied or satisfied with the quality of the statistics that they use; 10% were neutral
• 68% were very satisfied or satisfied with the timeliness of the statistics; 15% were neutral
• 66% were very satisfied or satisfied with the range of statistics available; 23% were neutral
• 80% were satisfied with the relevance of the statistics; 11% were neutral.
Stakeholders identified a desire for greater access to and timeliness of, statistics and services, and modifications to formats. These preferences are beyond the current ABS funding envelope.
Respondents noted reduced funding and resources have impacted the range of information available and the quality of outputs.
ABS Senior Executive reported that both our Economic and Population and Social Statistics Advisory Groups met twice and our State Statistical Forum met once during the 2017–18 reporting period. A review into the effectiveness of these advisory groups has been completed. The reviews found that stakeholders wish to see them continue with a modified format and more strategic focus. Stakeholders are finding value in the consultation and the opportunity to discuss strategic work program issues with the ABS.
Economic trilateral meetings have been held with the Commonwealth Treasury Department and Reserve Bank of Australia. The RBA and Treasury have utilised these meetings to provide the ABS with advice on pilot projects, proposals to enhance the sustainability of Labour Force Estimates, and the future direction of economic measurement.
|1.2.2 Stakeholder case studies||1.2.2 Case Study 1: Enhancements to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) (see page 40)|
|Our Planned Performance: ABS statistics are widely used.|
|Target 1.3: The uptake of ABS statistics increases each year, including stakeholders reporting increased usage of ABS statistics, data and insights in their work*|
Overall: An increase in the uptake of ABS statistics demonstrates that ABS stakeholders have continued trust in ABS delivery of high quality, relevant products. The following suite of measures indicates how the ABS ensures statistics are widely used.
1.3.1: Are more people seeking information from the ABS website? An indicator of trust in the ABS and usage of ABS data.
1.3.2: Are more organisations collaborating with the ABS? An indicator of the value others see in partnering with the ABS and/or gaining greater access to ABS data.
1.3.3: Are more DataLab sessions being used to access ABS data? An indicator of the value others see in working with the ABS and gaining greater access to ABS data.
1.3.4: Is revenue from ABS data consultancies increasing? A monetary indicator of value i.e. how much organisations are prepared to pay for ABS data to contribute to their work.
1.3.5: Do stakeholders use and trust ABS statistics and is usage is increasing?
1.3.6: Are there case studies to demonstrate stakeholders’ increased usage of ABS statistics, data and insights?
|How we will measure this||Result: Achieved|
|1.3.1 Website usage||1.3.1 64,001,395 page views from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018. This is an increase from 63,948,201, an additional 53,134 page views compared to 2016–17. Additional views over this period indicate that the ABS site has remained a relevant source of information over the past twelve months.|
|1.3.2 Number of new agreements with other entities||1.3.2 In demonstration of uptake of ABS statistics and stakeholders initiating agreements with the ABS in order to utilise ABS statistics, 79 new agreements were made in the 2017–18 financial year.|
|1.3.3 Use of Datalab||1.3.3 The number of DataLab sessions for the 2017–18 financial year was 5,541. This was a significant increase of 3,919 sessions compared to the previous financial year (Note: figures for previous financial year are from Nov 2016 as that is when the DataLab commenced.)|
The growth in the number of DataLab sessions is attributed to: greater access being provided to a virtual DataLab environment, rather than requiring users to be onsite in an ABS office to access the DataLab; the progressive decommissioning of the Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL) tool and migration of users over to the new DataLab; as well as the greater value that DataLab provides to users in the level of detail that they are able to see in DataLab, hence creating a demand for training and access to the new tool.
|1.3.4 Consultancy revenue||1.3.4 In demonstration of uptake of ABS statistics, the value of Information Consultancies for the 2017–18 financial year was $962K. This was achieved with an increase of $332K on the previous financial year. The increase is primarily driven by the release of the 2016 Census. In addition to consultancy revenue, the ABS has received $34M in user funded revenue.|
|1.3.5 The two yearly Stakeholder Relationship Health Assessment||1.3.5 Results from the Stakeholder Relationship Health Assessment survey showed that just over half of stakeholders (52%) used ABS statistics or services on a daily or weekly basis, with a further 25% reporting usage of once or twice a month.|
Over the last 12 months, 86% of stakeholders either increased or maintained their use of ABS statistics.
Just under half (49%) of respondents reported accessing ABS statistics via three or more different channels with the most common being the ABS Website (89%), DataLab, Microdata Download and TableBuilder (66%).
The results showed stakeholders used ABS statistics for a range of purposes, with 62% recording three or more different purposes. The most frequently reported were:
• Policy development or evaluation (66%)
• Research (61%)
• Modelling and forecasting (48%)
ABS statistics were also used for monitoring and market analysis, services planning, and spending decisions and resource/funding allocation.
|1.3.6 Stakeholder case studies||1.3.6 Case Study 2: Chief Economist (see page 41)|
|STRATEGIC PRIORITY 2: TRANSFORM THE ABS FOR THE FUTURE*|
|Our Planned Performance: The Statistical Business Transformation Program (SBTP) continues to be implemented to agreed timeframes|
|Target 2.1: SBTP achieves mid-point deliverables as assessed by the Gateway Review*|
The Statistical Business Transformation Program (SBTP) is one of the largest transformation programs the ABS has undertaken in recent years, and will enable the ABS to achieve its long and short term goals. The SBTP initiatives will improve capability and productivity across the organisation, and ensure continued support of the ABS stakeholders.
The Gateway Review process is administered by the Department of Finance and is in place to strengthen governance and assurance practices and to assist agencies to successfully deliver major projects and programmes. It was agreed that the 2017 Gateway review would be used to provide the Government assurance that SBTP was on track at the mid-point of the program, and therefore secure the release of the second tranche of program funding.
|How we will measure this||Result: Achieved|
|2.1.1 Gateway Review||2.1.1 The ABS was subject to mid-stage Gateway Reviews of the Statistical Business Transformation (SBT) Program in November/December 2017. This review, conducted on behalf of the Department of Finance, resulted in a Delivery Confidence Assessment (DCA) of Green/Amber, with the report recognising the Program’s proven track record in the timely delivery of technically complex mid-term deliverables, its commitment to continuous improvement in its Program management and delivery, and the quality of its planning for the next stage. A Green/Amber DCA indicates that ‘Successful delivery of the Program to time, cost, quality standards and benefits realisation appears probable. However constant attention will be needed to ensure risks do not become major issues threatening delivery’.|
|Target 2.2: Pioneer statistical collections are transitioned to SBTP capabilities*|
The on-boarding of pioneer collections to the transformed ABS environment will provide invaluable insight as to the usability and effectiveness of the new SBTP capabilities. There is currently limited knowledge of the interdependencies and overall operability, and this will provide an opportunity to test the environment whilst still in the warranty period for the products. This is an integral step in the implementation process that will inform further risk management and planning as the transition period progresses.
|How we will measure this||Result: Substantially achieved|
|2.2.1 SBTP Transition Plan performance reports||2.2.1 The General Social Survey Dress Rehearsal and the Health Literacy Survey were the first statistical collections to use new SBTP capabilities. These collections have provided assurance that SBTP capabilities work, and have helped identify improvements for the next round of statistical collections.|
Health Literacy Survey
The Heath Literacy Survey (HLS) is currently making use of new telephone interviewing capabilities delivered by the SBT Program. Collection of the HLS is scheduled to run until September 2018, over 55% of Household interviews have been successfully completed as at 30 June 2018.
General Social Survey (GSS) Dress Rehearsal in May 2018
Enhanced Data Acquisition capabilities delivered by the SBT Program were successfully proven through a live Dress Rehearsal for the General
Social Survey (GSS). The GSS Dress Rehearsal used the new web collection capability and new capabilities for Household Interviewers to collect required information from over 500 selected Households. This is the first time that the ABS has utilised web collection capabilities for a Special Social Survey.
Onboarding Migration Tool
The Onboarding Migration Tool (OMT) was released in June 2018 and is proving to be an effective way for survey areas to populate and author metadata quickly.
Next Collections Scheduled for Onboarding
The following collections are scheduled to onboard by February 2019:
• Survey of Income and Housing (SIH) Dress Rehearsal
• Business Expenditure on Research and Development (BERD) Survey
• General Social Survey (GSS) Main Event
|Our Planned Performance: The ABS builds the capacity and capability of staff, driving cultural change and improving performance.|
|Target 2.3: People and Culture Action Plan actions are implemented*|
An effective People and Culture Action Plan will support work towards ensuring staffing capability and sustainability, and assist in achieving the People aspect of the ABS transformation goals. The Plan provides actions targeted to achieve the ABS Workforce Strategy’s goals. Results are measured through an assessment of the People and Culture Action Plan performance reports.
|How we will measure this||Result: Substantially achieved|
|2.3.1 ABS People and Culture Action Plan performance reports||2.3.1 81% (26 of 32) actions scheduled for the 2017–18 financial year have been implemented. Of the six actions from the ABS People and Culture Action Plan 2017 & 2018 that were reported in April as not implemented, one is expected to be delivered in August 2018 (A.23 – ABS Inclusion and Diversity Strategy), while the others are being encapsulated in either alternate or larger pieces of work.|
Examples of successes resulting from these actions include:
• ABS was the Federal Government Champion at the 2018 Champions of Flexible Working Awards.
• All ABS offices have transitioned to Activity Based Working (ABW). Resources were delivered for staff in transitioning to ABW environments.
• An ABS Inclusion and Diversity Strategy was developed for all diversity groups.
• ABS delivered a Graduate Development Program aligned to transformational and post-transformational needs. The ABS ranked 17th in the GradAustralia Top 100 Student Survey of preferred graduate employers.
• Operational Workforce Plans, incorporating identification of critical positions and succession planning, were implemented by all Divisions.
• A structured approach to change management was developed for SBTP. Statistical Families all have formally trained Change Leads.
• ABS delivered a leader-led culture change program. 89% of SES surveyed feel well prepared to lead culture change in the ABS. 76% had changed the way they behaved and interacted with others.
• A Job Design Framework has been developed for the organisation.
|Target 2.4: The ABS Workforce Strategy is developed and implementation has commenced*|
The ABS Workforce Strategy provides a four-year outlook on key deliverables that aim to achieve a diverse, expert, motivated and agile workforce. The ABS Workforce Strategy is an integral part of the overall ABS Transformation and relates directly to the ‘People’ and ‘Culture’ Transformation goals. This strategy is supported by an annual People and Culture Action Plan.
Results are measured through the assessment of the ABS Workforce Strategy Desired Results and Performance Indicators.
|How we will measure this||Result: Substantially achieved|
|2.4.1 ABS Workforce Strategy performance reports||2.4.1 As at 30 June 2018, 79% (22 of 28) of the Strategy’s success measures were reported as on track or within acceptable tolerances. Of the six success measures reported as not being on track or within acceptable tolerances, three are now considered on track:|
• staff perceptions of the utilisation of their skills are positive and increasing (current State of the Service survey results indicates 83% up 6% from 2017)
• staffing expenditure within budget (ABS spent according to budget in 2016–17)
• proportion of staff who identify as having a disability increases (6% in 2017. 7% in 2018)
Three measures are still in progress:
• management structure and span of control
• management of underperformance
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment
Key progress includes:
• ABS staff are capitalising on contemporary ways of working. Take-up of teleworking and use of virtual teams has increased significantly. The adoption of Flexible Working Environments and Activity Based Working has resulted in savings in ABS floor space across all offices and increased opportunities for diversity and productivity outcomes.
• The proportion of women in the ABS SES reached 50% in this financial year, exceeding the target of 46% set for 2020 in the Strategy.
• ABS continues to be proactive about staff health and wellbeing. Accepted Comcare claims per 1000 FTE have dropped markedly since the implementation of the plan in 2015 – down from 8.3 to 2.7 claims/FTE.
• Two-thirds (66%) of staff responding to the 2017 APS Employee Census believed “senior leaders ensure that work effort contributes to the strategic direction of the agency and the APS”.
• The ABS Workforce Strategy will be updated in 2018–19 to reflect the evolving operating environment.
|STRATEGIC PRIORITY 3: DEVELOP AND IMPLEMENT NEW STATISTICAL SOLUTIONS TO MAXIMISE THE VALUE OF PUBLIC DATA*|
|Our Planned Performance: The ABS creates new statistical solutions, in collaboration with stakeholders, to deliver information needed for research, policy, planning and targeting of government services and evaluation|
|Target 3.1: Stakeholders seek out the ABS to undertake statistical activity and collaborate*|
Overall: It is important that the ABS maintains relevance in the national and international statistical scene through continued increases in collaboration and statistical activity with its stakeholders. By meeting this target, the ABS is demonstrating its continued commitment to improving statistical products to meet the demands of the Australian population, as well as effective stakeholder engagement.
The following are a suite of measures which together indicate how the ABS is working with others to create new statistical solutions, in collaboration with stakeholders, to deliver information needed for research, policy, planning and targeting of government services and evaluation:
3.1.1: Are more organisations collaborating with the ABS? An indicator of the value others see in partnering with the ABS
3.1.2: Are more organisations using ABS DataLab to access ABS data? An indicator of the value others see in working with the ABS and gaining greater access to ABS data
3.1.3: Are the number of secondments increasing? An indicator of the value others see in partnering with the ABS and gaining greater access to ABS data and expertise
3.1.4: Is revenue from ABS data consultancies increasing? A monetary indicator of value i.e. how much organisations are prepared to pay for ABS data to contribute to their work
3.1.5: Are there case studies to demonstrate stakeholders’ increased usage of ABS statistics, data and insights?
|How we will measure this||Result: Achieved|
|3.1.1 Number of new agreements with other entities||3.1.1 In demonstration of stakeholders initiating new or extending existing agreements with the ABS in order to utilise ABS statistics, 79 new agreements were made in the 2017–18 financial year.|
|3.1.2 Use of Datalab||3.1.2 Number of active organisations using DataLab for the 2017–18 financial year was 69. This compares to the 32 organisations from the previous financial year (Note: figures for previous financial year are from Nov 2016 as that is when the DataLab commenced.)|
|3.1.3 Number of secondments||3.1.3 There were 86 secondments into or out of the ABS during 2017–18. Secondments benefit both the ABS and its stakeholders by strengthening relationships and facilitating mutual learning with our partners.|
|3.1.4 Consultancy revenue||3.1.4 The value of Information Consultancies is a direct measure and indicator of stakeholders seeking out the ABS to meet their information needs. The value for the 2017–18 financial year was $962K. This was achieved with an increase of $332K on the previous financial year. The increase is primarily driven by the release of the 2016 Census. In addition to consultancy revenue, the ABS has received $34M in user funded revenue.|
|3.1.5 Stakeholder case studies||3.1.5 Case Study 3: Outgoing Passenger Cards (see page 42)|
|Target 3.2: The use of ABS microdata increases*|
The ABS is committed to developing new statistical solutions, such as DataLab, which provide secure access to highly detailed data for statistical research purposes. The implementation of this project showcased the ABS’s ability to meet user demands, and collaborate both internally and externally to meet a common goal. By allowing external users such as commonwealth government officials and academic researchers the ability to access this data, the ABS has improved the overall efficiency of data access to further ensure that the Australian public can make informed decisions based on the data we provide.
Results will be measured through assessing Datalab access, in particular, the increase in numbers of people who have been trained to use Datalab and are accessing the data. In addition to this, we will measure any performance issues and report on functional enhancements that are applied to the project.
|How we will measure this||Result: Achieved|
|3.2.1 Datalab access||3.2.1 The number of users trained in the DataLab for the 2017–18 financial year was 301. This now brings the total of trained DataLab users to 762. The on-boarding and training process has not changed from previous years.|
The growth in DataLab users is attributed to: greater access being provided to a virtual DataLab environment, rather than requiring users to be onsite in an ABS office to access the DataLab; the progressive decommissioning of the Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL) tool and migration of users over to the new DataLab; as well as the greater value that DataLab provides to users in the level of detail that they are able to see in DataLab, hence creating a demand for training and access on the new tool that adds great value to the research being undertaken.
ADHERENCE TO DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE GUIDANCE FOR ANNUAL PERFORMANCE STATEMENTS
Relevant and complete
|Target 3.3: Stakeholders agree ABS adds value to their business*|
Overall: Providing quality products to stakeholders is a key ABS priority. Effective engagement by the ABS with stakeholders and customers enables it to monitor and assess how value is added and continued improvement can be delivered. If the ABS is unable to provide innovative solutions and add further value, it will be unable to meet customer demands and transformation goals.
3.3.1 : Feedback from key stakeholders on whether ABS adds value to their business
3.3.2 : Demonstrates where key stakeholders consider the ABS has added value to their business
|How we will measure this||Result: Achieved|
|3.3.1 The two yearly Stakeholder Relationship Health Assessment||3.3.1 Results from the Stakeholder Relationship Health Assessment survey show that 94% of stakeholders strongly agreed or agreed with the statement: “ABS statistics, information or services are valuable to my business or organisation”.|
Additionally over 90% of stakeholders strongly agreed or agreed that the ABS is a credible source of data and information, and a national asset that provides value to Australia. Respondents noted reduced funding and resources have impacted the range of information available.
68% strongly agreed or agreed that ABS is a driver of data improvements, and 76% that the ABS collaborates effectively with its stakeholders.
The majority of stakeholders strongly agreed or agreed their ABS contact(s) were open to their needs (83%), approachable (92%), customer focused (73%) and collaborative in their attitude to work (80%). Stakeholders also noted that existing processes added a barrier to reaching subject matter experts, but provided positive feedback about outposted officers and key relationship managers.
ABS Senior Executives reported that the implementation of Strategic Partnership Managers (SPMs) into Central Agencies within State Government has been positively received. The Managers are successfully facilitating collaboration between the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments on innovative statistical solutions to maximise the opportunities from data analytics and data integration and are undertaking peer reviews. The SPMs form a conduit between ABS subject matter areas and their jurisdictional counterparts, helping to grow the business of the ABS and raising the visibility of both ABS products and jurisdictional projects.
The ABS and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade held a senior round table to develop shared understanding of the implications from the 2017 Foreign Policy White paper. Following there was commitment to pursue further ABS-DFAT collaboration on a range of cross-government priorities including the Sustainable Development Goals and trade statistics.
The ABS is partnering with the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) to modernise the agricultural statistics system to reduce the burden on farmers, minimise data collection costs and improve the accuracy and quality of statistics.
The ABS is supporting the Department of Environment and Energy (DOEE)-led national approach to environmental-economic accounting. This approach was endorsed by all Ministers as a means to improve decision making that involves environmental, economic and social dimensions.
ABS Senior Executives reported that a number of secondments both inward and outward to the RBA, Federal Treasury, State Government Departments and the Productivity Commission has resulted in a deepening of bilateral relations, shared understanding of data sources and methods and new insights into ABS microdata, an example being the Wage Price Index microdata analysis undertaken by the RBA.
ABS Population and Social Statistics Division (PaSSD) has negotiated user funding for a number of projects, including innovative projects with State Government and the Federal Department of Education. Significant funding was also successfully tendered for the National Health Survey, Survey of Disability and Carers, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey and the Personal Safety Survey. This level of investment reflects the confidence in ABS partnerships with stakeholders to deliver quality statistics. PaSSD also works to produce publications on smaller investments in the areas of crime and justice and migrants, highlighting the breadth of work and stakeholders we are engaged with.
|3.3.2 Stakeholder case studies||3.3.2 Case Study 4: Personal Safety Survey (see page 43) Case Study 5: Data Acquisition (see page 44)|
The 2017–18 measures support the ABS purpose by focusing on quality and increasing utilisation through innovative solutions to inform decisions, while keeping a focus on engagement with stakeholders to ensure the ABS meets their needs, both current and future, and ensuring staff have the capability to support the future transformed organisation.
The completeness of the picture presented by the measures demonstrates both an internal and external focus on ensuring the ABS achieves its purpose of informing important decisions through quality, partnerships and innovation.
Targets and measures may be replaced or rephrased in 2018–19 to provide more contemporary targets and measures that reflect the changes as the organisation progresses through transformation and data related initiatives mature.
Overall, information sources are fit-for-purpose. Methodology and processes have been documented. Quality control and management assurance has been provided. In 2017–18, three performance measures were independently audited, including the underlying data and data sources to ensure the methodology was sound. In addition to the three discrete measures being reviewed, the overall appropriateness of the full suite of measures to tell the ABS’s performance story was also scrutinised.
The outcome found that the suite of measures and targets did tell an appropriate story, noting areas of measures that could be reviewed to reduce duplication and ensure clearer alignment of measures to ABS objectives. This is to ensure measures for 2018–19 and beyond reflect the highest priority areas for the organisation to be measuring. The ABS has been improving its approach to quality control and assurance, contextualising measure results and reviewing measures and targets for future years to achieve greater alignment to the Corporate Plan and ensure a coherent performance story can be provided.
|Case Study 1: Enhancements to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) (Target 1.2)|
The Consumer Price Index, or CPI, is a measure of household inflation and is the most popular economic statistic on the ABS website. The reason for the CPI’s popularity is its use (by the Reserve Bank of Australia) to set official interest rates; and to adjust rents, wages, pensions and government fees.
But changes to technology and the structure of the economy over time mean that the way we gather and compile the data needs to change, too.
Following a period of research, innovation and extensive consultation, significant enhancements to the CPI were implemented in the December quarter 2017. Three main CPI enhancements were implemented, the first being the implementation of new household spending patterns. The use of transactions data (point-of-sale scanner data from retailers) for pricing and weighting purposes was also enhanced. Thirdly, the CPI was enhanced by the use of web scraping (the automated process of collecting price data from retailers’ websites) to collect price data.
These enhancements offer significant benefits for stakeholders. Reweighting the CPI ensures that the index is a more accurate reflection of current household expenditure on goods and services, and that the CPI data is of high quality. Using transactions data enables the data to be timelier, more accurate, and more comprehensive. Web scraping price data also boosts timeliness, quality, and broadens the range of analysis that is possible.
Extensive consultation with international experts and key stakeholders has been undertaken to secure support for these enhancements and to manage statistical risk. Consultation included external expert reviews by Professor Kevin Fox (University of NSW Sydney), Professor Jan de Haan (Statistics Netherlands/Delft University of Technology) and Mr Paul McCarthy (national accounts and price statistics expert); and a stakeholder engagement program including a call for public submissions.
The ABS also conducted numerous bilateral and multilateral consultations with key stakeholders, including: the Reserve Bank of Australia; the Treasury; Department of Social Services; Department of Finance; and State Treasuries.
Public comments from journalists and economists highlighted the smooth implementation of CPI enhancements following release of the data. This outcome is a result of careful planning and implementation, utilising Quality Advisors and external experts to make significant changes to an important ABS series. “Finally, we do not see the move to the 17th series CPI as having had a material impact on the quarterly inflation outturn (i.e. the data reported today). Neither, in our view, did the various methodological changes”, said Deutsche Bank Chief Economist, Adam Boyton.
CPI methodological enhancements were also endorsed by Professor Kevin Fox of UNSW Sydney, who said “I strongly support the ABS decision to implement new CPI methods for the treatment of transactions data. The ABS has made a convincing case for implementation following an extended period of research. These new methods will enhance the accuracy of the Australian CPI, provide additional analytics and better inform policy formulation.”
The ABS will continue to reweight the CPI in the future, and the successful incorporation of new data sources into the publication’s methodology will pave the way for further improvements. The CPI is an important data set to a great many stakeholders, and the recent enhancements build community confidence in the data, as it continues to inform Australia’s important decisions.
|Case Study 2: Chief Economist (Target 1.3)|
|While the ABS has long engaged with partners and stakeholders in order to maximise the quality and utility of its data, the creation of the position of Chief Economist has enabled a new, more effective way to build engagement and trust with key journalists and stakeholders.
When Bruce Hockman, previously head of the ABS’s Macroeconomic Statistics Division, was appointed as Chief Economist in June 2017, he set to work maximising his mandate for outreach. “Overnight, I went from having 300 staff to just one staff member, but 900 people I could call upon”, Hockman said.
In October and November of 2017, the Chief Economist undertook a series of in-person meetings with members of the media, continuing to be accessible as a source of understanding. Initial outreach efforts involved interacting with influential economic journalists in support of the Household Expenditure Survey, Labour Accounts, and the annual reweighting of the CPI.
|“We want the Australian public to understand our statistics and use them in an informed way, and working proactively with the media helps us to connect with the public. Building relationships with media commentators is not about eliminating the possibility that the ABS will be criticised. It’s about enabling informed critique, and a robust, mature organisation like the ABS is able to accept that”, Hockman said.|
While building long-term relationships takes time, the results of the Chief Economist’s efforts have been significant. Prominent, informed media coverage has followed each of the outreach efforts. Feedback has been positive from the media commentators.
Eryk Bagshaw, economics reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, is one of the many journalists who have benefited from the ABS’s efforts to engage. “It’s been great engaging with Bruce Hockman more regularly”, Bagshaw said. “His insights have driven our coverage on the key economic indicators, and given us invaluable background to ensure that our coverage is fair and accurate”.
The role of Chief Economist is emblematic of a fundamental and ongoing shift in the way that the ABS engages externally. The Chief Economist will continue to proactively support upcoming releases of economic data so that the community knows what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how it can be used. This initiative is part of an organisation-wide effort to improve the quality of our stakeholder engagement, further enhance the awareness, coverage and use of ABS statistical information and insights across a wide range of users.
|Case Study 3: Outgoing Passenger Cards (Target 3.1)|
From 1 July 2017, travellers leaving Australia were no longer required to complete an Outgoing Passenger Card.
For more than 50 years Outgoing Passenger Cards were used as a source of data for official population estimates. These statistics played a crucial role in determining the distribution of GST revenue and the number of seats in the House of Representatives for each state and territory.
However, with the annual number of cross-border movements expected to reach 50 million by 2020, collecting Outgoing Passenger Cards at the border was no longer considered efficient or in line with Government direction towards automated border clearance and digitisation of manual processes.
In 2015, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) – now the Department of Home Affairs – commenced plans to discontinue paper-based Outgoing Passenger Cards. In anticipation of the cessation of the outgoing passenger cards, the ABS and DIBP worked closely together to ensure statistical requirements were taken into account and, with support from the Australian Government Departments of Health and Human Services an alternative data source was identified.
“Fortunately for Home Affairs, ABS already had a strong appetite for finding new and better ways to collect data … I guess you could say that’s “business as usual” for the ABS. Home Affairs was able to harness this readiness for change from ABS and create a superior outcome for government, industry and the travelling population.
– Melissa Bennett , A/g Assistant Secretary , Traveller Branch, Department of Home Affairs
The main solution was to use a range of existing electronic data collected by DIBP about Australians travelling overseas. However, for a small proportion of cross-border movements, state of residence was missing from existing DIBP data sources, and this information is now obtained by other means.
By collaborating across government to make better use of existing public sector data, the ABS can continue to produce high quality official statistics to inform Australia’s important decisions. The work undertaken by the ABS to implement the new population system came at a cost to the ABS within existing resourcing.
Early feedback from travellers is that they are enjoying the shorter queues and the faster processing times as a result of the discontinuation of Outgoing Passenger Cards.
In recognition of the successful innovation to remove the Outgoing Passenger Card while retaining the critical data collected, delivering over one million hours of time back to the travelling public, the Department of Home Affairs was successful in winning the Judges’ Award in the IPAA 2018 Public Sector Innovation Awards. The ABS is proud to have contributed to this achievement and recognition of successful innovation.
|Case Study 4: Personal Safety Survey (Target 3.3)|
The Personal Safety Survey (PSS) 2016 was a special social survey funded by the Department of Social Services (DSS), and carried out by the ABS. This was the third time the DSS has requested the ABS run the survey, the last time being in 2012 and prior to that in 2005.
The PSS aims to build the evidence base on the nature, extent and characteristics of violence in Australia. It enables monitoring and evaluation of the government’s success in reducing the prevalence of Family and Domestic Violence (FDV) and Sexual Violence (SV) in Australia.
In order to maximise the value of the survey’s data, the ABS encouraged collaboration with key stakeholders by working closely with the Commonwealth, state and territory and non-government representatives to identify priorities and requirements of the survey. This has strengthened the family, domestic, and sexual violence evidence base and encouraged sharing of knowledge and information across the sector.
The provision of trusted official statistics on the prevalence of men’s and women’s experience of violence is important to the nation. The need for high quality national data on the prevalence of family and domestic violence and sexual violence is discussed in the COAG-endorsed National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022.
The survey collected information from men and women aged 18 years and over about the nature and extent of violence experienced since the age of 15. It also collected detailed information about men’s and women’s experience of current and previous partner violence and emotional abuse, stalking, physical and sexual abuse, and general feelings of safety.
The results from the 2016 Personal Safety Survey were made public in November 2017, and have informed media stories as well as being used extensively by stakeholders. The Department of Social Services describes the PSS as “a valued national dataset that helps DSS measure the performance and success of the National Plan’s indicators of change”.
The ABS and DSS will be partnering again to undertake the next Personal Safety Survey in 2020, continuing a valuable relationship that informs a variety of policy decisions in Australia.
|Case Study 5: Data Acquisition (Target 3.3)|
The ABS is continually working to improve the ways that it collects, processes, and publishes data. Following the consolidation of its functionally and geographically dispersed workforce in a National Data Acquisition Centre (NDAC), the ABS has been able to provide businesses and households providing data with a more seamless and user focused experience through the introduction of contemporary online platforms and new infrastructure in the field. These enhancements have also enabled the ABS to provide statistical outputs to the community in shorter time frames, increasing the relevance of our data.
During 2017–18, a number of key advancements were made in the collection of information. They include:
• Delivering the ability for household surveys to be completed on-line by providers – historically they could only be done with interviewers.
• Improving survey design that provides a contemporary experience for providers to respond on-line (using PC, laptop, tablet or mobile) and an improved experience for ABS staff who interview providers by telephone or face-to-face.
• The replacement of security questions with SMS based password resets improving security and making it easier for survey respondents to self-service if they forget their password.
• Refreshed approach materials, adopting more user centred design principles.
In addition, both the General Social Survey (GSS) and the Health Literacy Survey (HLS) have successfully tested enhanced data acquisition capabilities in the field, delivered as part of the ABS Statistical Business Transformation Program (SBTP). NDAC staff using the system found that a cleaner interface reduced the chance of human error and assisted in prioritising workloads. Learnings from this test will be integrated into continuing to build a more responsive system of data collection.
The NDAC has been working in partnership with Deakin University, enabling the ABS to access skills and resources of the university to complement ABS capability. NDAC collaboration with Deakin University over the past year has had a particular focus on building and implementing a contemporary business model which makes the workplace more innovative and adaptable, enabling us to better respond to and assist our providers. This aligns with the transformation goals of strategy and people; enabling effective use of resources, building strong partnerships with a diverse and agile workforce. This work will continue throughout 2018 and will provide a clear strategy for the successful on-boarding of our full suite of surveys.
1 ABS Portfolio Budget Statement is contained in Budget 2017–18 – Portfolio Budget Statements 2017–18 – Budget Related Paper No.
1.16 – Treasury Portfolio.
2 6% of respondents did not answer these questions. Any discrepancies between totals and sums of components are due to rounding
*Source: ABS Corporate Plan 2017-18, pg. 14–15
The ABS is delivering the ability for household surveys to be completed on-line by people. Historically, they could only be done with interviewers.