1001.0 - Australian Bureau of Statistics -- Annual Report, Report on ABS performance in 2015-16  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 13/10/2016   
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PERFORMANCE REPORT - ANNUAL PERFORMANCE STATEMENT

INTRODUCTORY STATEMENT

I, as the accountable authority of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), present the 2015-16 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, the performance statements accurately reflect the performance of the ABS against the performance criteria included in its Portfolio Budget Statements and Corporate Plan, and comply with subsection 39(2) of the PGPA Act.

David W. Kalisch
Australian Statistician

ABS PURPOSE

The ABS Purpose is to provide trusted official statistics on a wide range of economic, social, population and environmental matters of importance to Australia (related to Outcome 1: Informed decision-making, research and discussion within governments and the community by leading the collection, analysis and provision of high quality, objective and relevant statistical information).

RESULTS

Results against the criteria from the ABS Corporate Plan 2015-19 and the ABS Portfolio Budget Statement (PBS) are described below. In a few cases there has been a slight wording change from the criteria in the Portfolio Budget Statement to to the later version in the Corporate Plan. Footnotes are used to highlight the change. All results relate to the one program in the ABS Portfolio Budget Statement: 1.1 Australian Bureau of Statistics.


Performance Criterion 1
Criterion source

Australia’s key decisions, research and discussions continue to be underpinned by trusted official statistics and Australia’s public sentiment about ABS statistics remain positive (Footnote 1)
ABS Corporate Plan & Portfolio Budget Statement

The value and impact of ABS statistics on key decisions, research and discussions is very difficult to measure. Many headline statistics are stated as ‘fact’ and not referenced where used across the community. Academic researchers and print journalists are generally better at referencing ABS statistics. Media reporting of concerns about the quality of ABS statistics may indicate distrust in ABS official statistics and could deter reliance on them for decision making.

RESULTS

In 2015-16 ABS products and services continued to inform decisions by governments and the community. Key ABS statistics included: national accounts information; labour force data; the Consumer Price Index and other prices indexes; Census of Population and Housing information; and estimated resident population. These informed decisions on:

  • the indexation of government payments, superannuation payments, Government taxes and charges, and the distribution of funding to states and territories (e.g. the apportionment of shares of Goods and Services Tax funding) and funding to other entities (e.g. hospitals)
  • salary and wage negotiations
  • the assessment of legislated decisions such as the setting of minimum wages by Fair Work Australia and the setting of the cash rate by the Reserve Bank of Australia
  • the distribution of electoral boundaries by the Australian Electoral Commission.

Population and social statistics are also used in investment decisions on social services (e.g. payment types and distribution, support and management services), transport and infrastructure, education and health services. Decisions based on this information impact on the general population as well as vulnerable populations (e.g. socio-economically disadvantaged groups) and are made by all levels of government.

ABS microdata citations in academic journals have continued, with 97 citations, showing an active use of official statistics for research purposes. The trust in ABS official statistics is reflected in the sentiment of media articles citing ABS statistics. In 2015-16, 96% of selected print articles(Footnote 2) cited ABS statistics without concerns about quality.

Footnotes

1. Combines two related criteria into one criterion .

2. Based on assessment of articles in seven major newspapers citing ABS statistics (located through a contracted media monitoring service).


Performance Criterion 2
Criterion source

Community trust in official statistics increases or is maintained.
ABS Corporate Plan


The ABS needs community trust to maintain high rates of administrative and transaction data provision, survey responses and response quality. For ABS, loss in trust impacts on the quality and cost of its statistics. Maintaining community trust in the ABS is therefore an investment which is measured every five years via the Community Trust in ABS Statistics Survey (CTASS).

RESULTS

The Community Trust in ABS Statistics Survey (cat. no. 1014.0), undertaken in June and July 2015, found that 81% of the general community respondents indicated they trust or greatly trust the ABS (with 13% indicating distrust and 3% indicating they greatly distrust the ABS). Of the same group, 76% indicated they trust or greatly trust ABS products (with 14% indicating distrust and 2% indicating they greatly distrust ABS products). This is consistent with the results from the 2010 Community Trust in ABS Statistics Survey.


Performance Criterion 3
Criterion source

High-quality statistical information is available to describe Australia’s most important issues.
ABS Corporate Plan & Portfolio Budget Statement

ABS has quality management processes to ensure high quality statistical information is released. In the event of errors, affected statistics are re-issued as soon as feasible and incidents are investigated to identify improvements in order to avoid future issues.

RESULTS

Of the 165 releases of ABS key statistics (Footnote 3) there were four reissues for corrections which were rated as medium impact (Footnote 4).

Footnotes

3. Includes Main Economic Indicators, Australian Demographic Statistics, National Regional Profiles, selected Census releases, ABS.Stat and TableBuilder releases.

4. Medium impact errors are unlikely to mislead users, or at most, only a small group of users are at risk of being misled.


Performance Criterion 4
Criterion source

Australia’s leading indicators adhere to appropriate statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies to maintain quality, and support comparability in the global statistical system.
ABS Corporate Plan & Portfolio Budget Statement


To ensure comparability between countries, the standards, frameworks, classifications and methodologies governing official statistics are agreed internationally. The ABS publishes the concepts, sources and methods it uses for all key macroeconomic and demographic statistics. The ABS releases publications that include information on the applications of internationally agreed practices in ABS statistics.


Most years, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) assesses Australia's observance of its Special Data Dissemination Standards. These standards provide an accepted benchmark for the main economic and population indicators for subscribing countries.


RESULTS

The most recent IMF Country Report on Australia was published in September 2015 and it noted that:

      ’Data provision is adequate for surveillance‘ [of the economy] (Footnote 5).
’Australia participates in the G-20 Data Gaps Initiative (DGI) and has implemented all the recommendations of the first phase of the DGI, with the exception of semi-annual Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS) data. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has taken several initiatives to further improve the quality of the data, such as issues relating to seasonal adjustment of unemployment and employment statistics. Adding monthly inflation data to the suite of statistics would assist surveillance‘ [of the economy] (Footnote 5).
IMF Country Report No. 15/274: Australia, September 2015

Footnote

5. The IMF monitors developments in its member countries, as well as at regional and global levels, to ascertain potential sources of economic and financial instability. This process is known as surveillance.


Performance Criterion 5
Criterion source

ABS builds partnerships through active engagement with key stakeholders and increases the support of key stakeholders (Footnote 6).
ABS Corporate Plan & Portfolio Budget Statement

While it is imperative that the ABS acts independently and objectively in performing its functions and exercising its powers as set out in legislation, key stakeholders expect the ABS to engage and be sensitive and responsive to their needs and preferences. They want to partner with the ABS and be connected with opportunities across the statistical system.

In response to the Australian Public Service Commission Capability Review, the ABS has become more open to stakeholder needs and expectations through a refreshed approach to engagement, placing it as a central pillar of the new organisational culture of the ABS. Strengthening partnerships is a priority in the ABS Transformation.


RESULTS

The biennial 2016 Stakeholder Relationship Health Assessment showed that ABS relationships with key stakeholders have greatly improved since the APSC Capability Review in 2013 In order to allow for more accurate reflections by stakeholders, the time frame for consideration of improvements was in relation to the arrival of the new Australian Statistician in December 2014 as opposed to the APSC Capability Review undertaken in 2013. This assumes that the performance of the ABS in relation to stakeholders did not deteriorate over the 12 months prior to the new Statistician’s arrival.

. Of those interviewed, 93% rated ABS performance as having improved. These results were consistent across stakeholders in academia, business, media, non-government organisations and Australian, state and territory governments. Stakeholders want the ABS to succeed; are prepared to help its reform agenda; and praised the technical ability of its staff.

The ABS held a number of strategic engagement forums during 2015-16 including: three of the Australian Statistics Advisory Council; four of the State Government Statistical Priority Forum; two of the Australian Government Statistical Forum; two Economic Statistics Advisory Group meetings; as well as the inaugural meeting of the Population and Social Statistics Advisory Group.

ABS also increased connections with other agencies through 41 outpostings and 26 inpostings of staff.

Footnotes

6. This combines two Corporate Plan criteria

7. In order to allow for more accurate reflections by stakeholders, the time frame for consideration of improvements was in relation to the arrival of the new Australian Statistician in December 2014 as opposed to the APSC Capability Review undertaken in 2013. This assumes that the performance of the ABS in relation to stakeholders did not deteriorate over the 12 months prior to the new Statistician’s arrival.


Performance Criterion 6
Criterion source

The quality and accuracy of Australia's official statistics is maintained or improved.
Portfolio Budget statement

The ABS engages in continuous improvement to its primary economic and population statistics to ensure information on economic activity, employment and unemployment, inflation (CPI) and the size and distribution of the population are accurate and reliable.

RESULTS

Developments to improve the quality of ABS headline measures during 2015-16 included:

  • development and endorsement of an improved approach to risk management for Labour Force estimates, the National Accounts, CPI and Estimated Resident Population
  • continued implementation of all recommendations that have a substantive bearing on the quality of the monthly labour force estimates from the 2014 Independent Technical Review of the Labour Force Survey. In 2015-16 this also included a change to the release schedule for Labour Force, Australia (ABS cat. no. 6202.0), to afford an additional week each month for additional quality assurance of estimates and increased resources for the production of the estimates. Monitoring of the collection and production of labour force estimates continued, to enhance quality and coherence with other macroeconomic statistics
  • research undertaken to maximise use of transactions data in the CPI and development of standards for the use of transactions data in the CPI. Research was undertaken to investigate alternative sources of information to update the CPI basket of goods and services more frequently
  • release of a 19 year KLEMS timeseries providing analysis of the contribution of capital (K), labour (L), energy (E), materials (M) and services (S) inputs to industry productivity
  • improvements to the accuracy of capital statistics within the National Accounts, including asset values, estimates of capital consumption (depreciation) and capital service estimates
  • release of statistics on the distribution of household income and wealth incorporating the effects of tax, transfers and provision of individualised services (such as health and education)
  • release of analysis of capital investment by mining and non-mining industries.


Performance Criterion 7
Criterion source

Statistical data integration projects involving primarily cross government data increase and progress.
ABS Corporate Plan

Producing microdata and integrating survey and administrative datasets significantly enhances the potential of public sector data to drive innovation, efficiency, productivity and economic growth.

Data access systems (such as virtual data laboratories) continue to be enhanced to allow trusted users to access microdata while protecting the identities of individuals and organisations.


RESULTS

The number of registered users of ABS statistical data integration products increased by 46% in 2015-16 from 2014-15. Trials of a 'virtual' DataLab, giving convenient and secure access to selected researchers drove the increase.


Performance Criterion 8
Criterion source

Use of ABS data increases.
ABS Corporate Plan & Portfolio Budget Statement

ABS statistics make an impact through use by stakeholders, however use is very difficult to measure. Traditional measures of use are reported, including for social media in which the ABS has invested as a further method to raise awareness of and promote the use of statistics.

RESULTS

In 2015-16 there were over 13.6 million visits to the ABS website and 2.5 million downloads; over 44,000 calls to the National Information and Referral Service; 183 Facebook posts with a Facebook Newsfeed reach of over 3.3 million; 770 tweets generating almost 2.5 million tweet impressions and over 3,700 retweets.

Examining whether use has increased over time is challenging. Use of the internet as a primary research tool is still increasing and, as expected, use of printed statistical products has declined over time. These measures are not adjusted for changes from year to year in ABS product releases and dissemination channels. Enhanced measures are being considered which may deliver a more meaningful report on ABS performance.


Performance Criterion 9
Criterion source

Customer service performance meets the ABS's Service Delivery Charter standards.
Portfolio Budget Statement

The ABS Service Delivery Charter outlines the ABS’s commitment to providing a high level of customer service.

RESULTS

In 2015-16 the ABS met its commitments by:

  • providing a telephone enquiry service 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (Australian Eastern Standard Time) from Mondays to Fridays
  • ensuring the website was available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, other than for scheduled maintenance
  • advertising website unavailability for maintenance purposes one working day prior to the website being unavailable
  • fixing all broken web page links within three working days of notification by a customer
  • referring any requests for translation of any web product which is not suitably accessible for visually impaired users, to an appropriate translation service within three working days
  • responding to customer enquiries as soon as possible (Footnote 8)
  • providing a quote on the customer specified work as soon as possible (Footnote 9)
  • delivering information requested within the time frame negotiated between customer and the ABS consultant (Footnote 10)
  • processing Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF) microdata product access requests as soon as possible following receipt of completed CURF application forms

Footnotes

8. Eighty- four per cent of all telephone calls were answered within 15 seconds of the calls entering the queue. Written requests to the information referrals team were completed on average within a fortnight.

9. Ninety-seven per cent were responded to within 14 days, with an average of 2.4 days.

10. Fifty-seven per cent were completed in 14 days, with an average of 26.6 days.

11.The average request took three days with a median period of two days.


Performance Criterion 10
Criterion source

Deregulation is delivered by reducing provider burden (Footnote 12)
ABS Corporate Plan &
Portfolio Budget Statement

The principal objective of the ABS in respect of providers is to impose the lowest load possible while meeting its obligations to provide Government and the community with a high quality official statistical service.

RESULTS

In 2015-16 , the ABS delivered an estimated net annualised decrease of regulatory burden of $807,600 Decisions contributing to deregulation include the following changes to selected collections:

  • improved sample design reducing sample sizes
  • increased take-up of e-forms
  • cancellation of surveys
  • substitution of survey data with administrative and transactional data

Footnotes

12. Corporate Plan wording. Related PBS criterion is ‘ABS commitment to reducing provider burden is demonstrated through availability of online or alternative reporting and minimisation of provider load’.

13. Caution is advised when comparing the provider burden from one year to the next as different collections are run each year (with some collections run every year, others every two or three years, and a small number on less frequent or one-off basis)

14. In line with the Office of Best Practice Regulation Regulatory burden measurement framework guidance note.


Performance Criterion 11
Criterion source

The ABS continues to provide and improve products, services and tools to help providers meet their obligations.
Portfolio Budget Statement

The cooperation of Australian businesses and households is critical to the quality of ABS statistics. The ABS continues to improve interaction with providers in order to reduce the complexity in providing a response.

RESULTS

Respondents in all ABS surveys have the option to report via a number of channels. These may include paper forms, electronic reporting or interviewer driven modes. Where available, approximately 90% of businesses used electronic reporting. Online take up rates for households exceed the introductory target of 20%.

In 2015-16, the ABS has continued to develop, test and refine interactions with providers. The main areas of focus were:

  • a new respondent online survey interface for business surveys and the Monthly Population Survey
  • development of the electronic form for the 2016 Census
  • the development of new approach materials with CSIRO and other organisations to make responding to ABS surveys easier. This included producing and testing approach materials for the 2016 Agricultural Census and the 2016 Census of Population and Housing.


Performance Criterion 12
Criterion source

Continued provider cooperation (Footnote 15)
ABS Corporate Plan & Portfolio Budget Statement

The ongoing cooperation of providers is critical for the ABS to provide the statistical information needed to foster informed debate and drive evidence based policy making.

RESULTS

The ABS sets high target response rates for collections to ensure surveys are representative of the whole population. Overall, the ABS continues to achieve very high response rates compared to other National Statistics Offices and private data collections. However, ABS has been experiencing a general decline in response rates across most surveys resulting in most not meeting their targets in 2015-16. There is a downward trend in survey response rates globally and the reasons for the decline are still elusive(Footnote 16). ABS research on response trends suggests strong statistical evidence of a small but steady growth in the number of households not able to be contacted across most areas of Australia.


RESPONSE RATES ACHIEVED FOR SELECTED SURVEYS


Target response rate (%)
2015-16 Final response rate (%) (a)

Business surveys

Retail Business Survey
95
92
Quarterly Business Indicators Survey
85
83
Capital Expenditure Survey
90
84
Economic Activity Survey
90
86
Business Characteristics Survey
95
94
Survey of Average Weekly Earnings
98
93
Survey of International Trade in Services
90
92

Household surveys

Labour Force Survey
94
94
Multi-purpose Household Survey (b)
80
75
Survey of Income and Housing
84
80
National Health Survey
87
(c)

(a) Average response rates over the year for quarterly or monthly surveys.
(b) The Multi-purpose Household Survey covers a number of individual topics, enumerated monthly. Response rates are a simple average across all topics.
(c) Survey not conducted during the year.

Footnotes

15. Corporate Plan wording. PBS wording is ‘Provider cooperation is demonstrated through the achievement of target survey response rates’.

16. National Research Council. (2013). Nonresponse in Social Science Surveys: A Research Agenda. Roger Tourangeau and Thomas J. Plewes, Eds. Panel on a Research Agenda for the Future of Social Science Data Collection, Committee on National Statistics. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Retrieved from www.nap.edu.


Performance Criterion 13
Criterion source

Complaint resolution performance meets ABS Surveys Charter standards
Portfolio Budget Statement


The ABS relies on the support of thousands of people across Australia who participate in ABS business and household surveys. The ABS Surveys Charter includes information on how surveys are conducted, and outlines the rights and obligations of the ABS and survey participants. The charter explains what people can expect when dealing with the ABS and ABS interviewers, including standards expected of the ABS when responding to complaints.

RESULTS

In 2015–16 the ABS received 460 written queries or complaints from businesses and 240 from households. Most approaches from businesses were seeking exemption from the requirement of participation in the ABS Survey Program. The ABS does at times provide general exemptions from surveys to certain small businesses in exceptional circumstances. Some providers are also granted temporary exemptions on compassionate grounds.

On average, the ABS responded to written queries and complaints within 10 days of receipt of the correspondence with 92% being sent written advice of the outcome within 28 days

Footnotes

17. Based on data available for written correspondence and outcomes from business survey providers only.

18. The ABS Survey Charter states that ABS will advise the outcome of complaints within 4 weeks.


Performance Criterion 14
Criterion source

The National Statistical Services priorities are progressed or met
Portfolio Budget Statement


The ABS has an important leadership role, coordinating statistical activities and collaborating with official bodies in the collection, compilation and the analysis and distribution of statistics. This assists in maximising the value of government investment on these activities, and ensures outputs are fit-for-purpose. This role has previously been played out through ABS leading the National Statistical Service. This leadership role is now shifting to ABS business-as-usual activities.

RESULTS

The Commonwealth data policy landscape has shifted in the last few years, impacting the direction of initiatives previously commenced as National Statistical Service (NSS) priorities. The release of the Public Sector Data Management Report by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in July 2015 and the Australian Government Public Data Policy Statement in December 2015 acknowledges data collected by Australian government entities as a strategic national resource and recognises the importance of effectively managing and sharing data.

During 2015-16, the NSS released Essential Statistical Infrastructure for Australia 2015 (cat.no.1395.0). This release was the third and final in a series of outputs from the Essential Statistical Assets for Australia initiative.


Performance Criterion 15
Criterion source

The ABS is actively involved in the development of statistical frameworks, methods and standards.
Portfolio Budget Statement

As Australia’s central statistical authority the ABS is responsible for developing and implementing statistical standards. To ensure comparability between countries, the standards, frameworks, classifications and methodologies governing official statistics are agreed internationally. The ABS publishes the concepts, sources and methods it uses for all key macroeconomic, industry and demographic statistics. These publications include information on the applications of internationally agreed practices in ABS statistics. Where possible, the ABS meets agreed standards, and in some cases the ABS is a world leader in the implementation of newly agreed or updated standards.

RESULTS

During 2015-16 the ABS continued its significant involvement in the development of statistical frameworks, standards and methods. Key contributions include:

  • release of the Standard for Sex and Gender (cat no. 1200.0.55.012) which aligns with the Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender, November 2015 (Attorney-General’s Department)
  • update of the Standards for Income Variables (cat. no. 1287.0)
  • contributed to the review of the Classification of Individual Consumption According to Purpose through membership on the United Nations Technical Subgroup
  • reviews of the Standards for Statistics on Cultural and Language Diversity (cat.no.1289.0) relating to:
    • country of Birth and the Standard Australian Classification of Countries
    • language standards (includes first language spoken, languages spoken at home, main language other than English spoken at home, main language spoken at home and proficiency in spoken English) and the Australian Standard Classification of Language
    • Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups
    • religious Affiliation Standard and the Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups
  • publication of the Australian System of Government Finance Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5514.0) on 23 December 2015, fully coherent with the IMF Government Finance Statistics Manual 2014, for implementation by Australian governments
  • presentation of two papers to the IMF Committee on Balance of Payments Statistics in discussion of the next revision of the IMF’s Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual.


Performance Criterion 16
Criterion source

Increased shared use, and development of, services and infrastructure across government and the statistical community.
ABS Corporate Plan

ABS embraces the sharing of infrastructure across government to increase efficiency.

RESULTS

ABS is implementing a shared service Financial Management Information System with the Department of the Treasury. ABS also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Australian Taxation Office to provide a call centre for the 2016 Census of Population and Housing inquiry service.


Performance Criterion 17
Criterion source

The ABS progresses new sustainable solutions to support better and more cost effective statistical solutions.
ABS Corporate Plan & Portfolio Budget Statement

The Statistical Business Transformation Program is one year into its five year program. The $257m Government investment to modernise ABS infrastructure and business will reduce risks to statistical outputs; reduce costs; and achieve faster turnaround in dissemination of statistics.

RESULTS

The ABS is undertaking a major transformation program which will deliver a range of re-engineered business process supported by a significant refresh of the information and communications technology platforms and applications that support ABS statistical processing. The Statistical Business Transformation Program underwent, and passed, a rigorous and independent assurance process in the form of a Gateway Review. (Footnote 19)

Footnote

19. The Gateway Review Process is led by the Department of Finance. Gateway Reviews serve to strengthen governance and assurance practices and to assist non-corporate Commonwealth entities to successfully deliver major projects and programs. See Department of Finance website.


Performance Criterion 18
Criterion source

An increase in the statistical capability of national statistical offices in Asia and the Pacific region through effective delivery of international programs (Footnote 20).
ABS Corporate Plan & Portfolio Budget Statement


ABS partners with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to deliver on its program of assistance to the Indo-Pacific region. Increasing statistical capability aims to increase informed decision making in the governance of the region.

RESULTS

In 2015-16 the ABS continued to take a strong lead in the Indo-Pacific region to support increased statistical capability, and high-quality, comparable statistics. During 2015-16 the ABS:

  • partnered with the DFAT to provide technical assistance and capability development to national statistics offices in Indonesia, Timor Leste, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and other countries as part of a regional program in the Pacific
  • supported regional improvement in Civil Registration and Vital Statistics through the Brisbane Accord Group, particularly in Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Fiji, and commenced planning to assist the DFAT-funded Data for Health Program in the Philippines and potentially Sri Lanka
  • contributed as a member of the Governing Council of the United Nations Statistics Institute of Asia and the Pacific.

Footnote

20. Corporate Plan wording. PBS wording is ‘Effective delivery of international engagement programs to increase the statistical capability of national statistical offices in Asia and the Pacific region’.


Performance Criterion 19
Criterion source

National statistical literacy programs effectively engage target audiences.
Portfolio Budget Statement


In order to unleash the power of statistics, users of ABS statistics need to understand how to use the available information effectively to make better decisions. ABS staff also need to develop statistical capability to develop products that engage the intended audience and deliver information that is fit-for-purpose.

RESULTS

The most significant achievements over 2015-16 to engage target audiences in statistical capability development initiatives included:

  • release of three Foundational Statistical e-learning programs accessible to all ABS staff
  • sharing of two Foundational Statistical e-learning programs with the ATO and Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) staff to help build statistical capability across the Australian Public Service (APS)
  • collaborating with APSC in regards to the development of an APS-wide Data Literacy Skills Program, stemming from the Public Sector Data Management agenda.



ANALYSIS OF PERFORMANCE AGAINST PURPOSE

During 2015-16, the ABS fulfilled its purpose of providing trusted official statistics on a wide range of economic, social, population and environmental matters of importance to Australia. Fullfilling the purpose of the ABS means that governments, businesses and the community are better informed to discuss, research and make decisions, which enhances the wellbeing of all Australians.

The environment in which the ABS operates is becoming more complex, expectations of decision makers are growing, and ABS is being challenged to deliver the best possible statistical program in more efficient and innovative ways.

In response to these opportunities and challenges, and informed by the Government’s Statement of Expectations; recommendations from the 2013 APSC Capability Review of the ABS; and engagement with key stakeholders, the ABS commenced a major transformation (due for completion in 2020) across six dimensions of environment, strategy, governance, people, culture and infrastructure.

In 2015-16 the ABS delivered its planned work program with 489 statistical releases while also completing the first year of the five-year transformation program. Key stakeholders have recognised that ABS engagement has improved since the APSC Capability Review was undertaken (criterion 5) and community trust has been maintained (criterion 2). ABS had increased communication of statistics in part through new social media channels (criterion 9).

Media sentiment in relation to ABS statistics was strongly positive (criterion 1) and there was a minimal number of corrections to data releases (criterion 3). Continuous improvement of ABS statistics has had to balance cost-effectiveness and minimising the imposition of red tape on businesses and the community (criterion 10). Responsive to stakeholders needs: more focus has been placed on better measuring industry productivity, including in the non-market sector and at the firm-level. Managing risks to maintaining the quality of key statistics has become a focus (criterion 6).

The ABS also contributed to whole-of-government public data management and data integration with a number of projects to integrate ABS survey data with administrative data from other agencies (for example, ATO, Health, Social Services) complying with the principles for Commonwealth data integration. These new products have shown a growing number of users the potential for richer, integrated information about the economy and society and the effectiveness of policy intervention (criterion 7).

This is the first year that the performance statement has been produced in this format. The work surrounding this year’s Performance Statement will lead to a set of performance criteria that are better aligned with the proposed outcomes of the transformation program and ABS strategy.