1304.5 - Stats Talk WA, Jun 2010  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/06/2010   
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Real Statistical Stories

Hi, my name’s Ron.* I’m a 38 year old public servant and I like to go to quiz nights with my friends.

The problem was that for years I was only really good for running the answers up to the markers at the end of each round. Fact is, I was a bit short on facts.

The others on the team all had a specialty area they could answer. Portia, who went to an expensive private school, always knows which King ruled and when. Steve’s a sports tragic who knows every Melbourne Cup winner and how many times Tiger hit the green in regulation during the final round of his 2006 Open win at Royal Liverpool.

Danny comes into his own for TV and movie questions. Who else would know that Humphrey Bogart didn’t say “Play it again, Sam” in the film Casablanca? Amy knows more about history than a famous historian whose name I can’t seem to remember (that’s why I’m no good at history).

Well, for years they carried me as I answered barely a question. That is until a friend told me about a website that had tons of facts and figures, and all for free! Did you know that Australia’s population has just topped 22 million? Or that in the 1990’s WA had more sheep per head of population than New Zealand?

So where is this wealth of free information, I hear you ask? It’s at http://www.abs.gov.au. Fantastic, a government department serving the public by giving out free information.

Comparing Apples and Oranges - Agricultural Commodities WA Year Ended 30 June 2008

Anyway, now I’m a quiz king and people are trying to lure me onto their teams. Just the other week at a trivia night we tied for first place with another team, so they asked a sudden death tie-breaker. The question was, “Those referred to as Baby Boomers were born in which period?”.

Everyone at the table looked blank, until I nonchalantly wrote ‘1946-1965’ on the answer sheet. (The WA office of the ABS put out a study on Baby Boomers a few years back). The other table had no idea, so it was us who ended up with the six bottles of cheap plonk and a counter lunch at the local pub. Sweet!

Now everybody thinks I’ve had a brain transplant or something, but it’s all so easy. If you’ve got an issue that requires some data, then the ABS should be the first place to look.

You can not only usually find what you want, but you can download the data into a spreadsheet or map it and save the map.

I’ve even used the ABS to do a few a work reports and they think I’m a genius. When I produced a map showing the distribution of non-English speakers in Perth and showed my boss, he started wondering why I’d spent all those years opening the mail.

The ABS probably doesn’t have the answer to whether it is statistically worth entering the ‘toss the coin closest to the whiskey bottle’ competition. But I’d probably still enter it anyway.

So, do yourself a favour. Win friends and influence people using free stats on the web courtesy of the ABS. I did.


* Not his real name.

Brian Pink Australian Statistician

Ron- A Public Servant