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1504.0 - Methodological News, Sep 2001  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 14/11/2001   
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MEASURING AUSTRALIA'S PROGRESS

Measuring Australia's Progress (MAP) is a new ABS publication that will assess progress in Australia across the environmental, social and economic aspects of life. The first issue of MAP is scheduled for release in early 2002; the ABS expect to issue updates of the publication thereafter, perhaps annually. We envisage that MAP will contain 15 headline indicators that summarise the state of the economy, society and the environment, so allowing readers to form their own view of Australian progress.

Our choice of indicators was made with reference to the following criteria:

  • Indicators should focus on the progress outcome rather than, say, the inputs or other influences that generated the outcome, or the government and other social responses to the outcome. Increased life expectancy is an outcome of progress in the area of health. But increased government expenditure on health is an input. While increased expenditure would hopefully improve health outcomes, it may not necessarily be the case.
  • It was also judged important that movements in any indicator could be unambiguously associated with progress. That is, with all other things kept equal, all would agree that movement in an indicator in a particular direction was unambiguously good. All would agree that lower greenhouse gas emissions - if they could come without retarding economic growth and the like - would be unambiguously good. But we avoided indicators such as changes in divorce rates, because of their ambiguity. Does more divorce mean more broken marriages and unhappy people? Or does it mean fewer unhappy people trapped in bad relationships?
  • The availability of data at a national level and as a time series.

The project has been underway for over a year now and the ABS has received continual feedback from subject matter experts from both within and outside the ABS.

We recently conducted a fairly large consultation of key stakeholders. As a first step Jon Hall and other members of the project team met with many government departments including: Treasury, Environment Australia, Productivity Commission, Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs, Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business, Department of Health and Aged Care and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

During May, Jon presented seminars in all States and Territories that provided an outline of the proposed content and design of the publication. Jon spoke to some 250 people from outside the ABS, and about 450 consultation packs were sent out. In addition to the many comments received during the seminars, we received about 60 detailed written submissions. People were overwhelmingly supportive of the project's aims and MAP's approach to measuring progress, although there were criticisms of some of our suggested indicators and suggestions for improvements. The consultation closed at the end of June and enabled us to finalise both the headline and supplementary indicators. In the next few weeks we will be releasing a response to all the significant comments suggested in the consultation and whether (and how) we plan to take them on board in MAP's first issue.
After the publication is released in April 2002, the ABS will host a workshop to discuss the publication and consider how it should be refined in the future.

For more information, please contact Cristy Williams on (02) 6252 5546.

Email: cristy.williams@abs.gov.au

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