A necessary prerequisite for any discussion of quality is an understanding of the notion of integrity. This relates to the need for statistical systems to be based on the principles of objectivity in the collection, compilation and dissemination of data to ensure unbiased statistics which are not subject to confidentiality breaches or premature release. Key to this notion is the legislative framework, organisational structure, planning and quality of the management practices of the ABS.
The ABS is headed by the Australian Statistician - a statutory office. The Australian Statistician determines which statistics are collected, after full discussion with users and the Australian Statistics Advisory Council, and makes the results widely available. The independent status of the Australian Statistician is specified in law. This helps to ensure the ABS's impartiality and independence from political influence.
The Census and Statistics Act, 1905 provides the Statistician with the authority to conduct statistical collections and, when necessary, to direct a person to provide statistical information. The same Act imposes on the ABS obligations to publish and disseminate compilations and analyses of statistical information and to maintain the confidentiality of information collected under the Act.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics Act, 1975 requires the Statistician to prepare an annual report on the operations of the ABS for presentation to Parliament. This Act also established the Australian Statistical Advisory Council to assist the ABS fulfil its role. The Council is the key advisory body to the ABS and provides valuable input to the directions and priorities of the ABS work program. The ABS is financed via Parliamentary appropriations for its administration and programs. Its financial statements are audited annually by the Australian National Audit Office. Together these elements provide an environment conducive to the production of high quality national accounts and other statistics.
The ABS also adopts practices which protect the practice and perception of independence and include:
- The advertisement of all scheduled release dates for publications up to twelve months in advance. Daily press and media releases inform users of publications being released each day. This information is also available on the ABS web site. Release of all publications is subject to a strict publicly known embargo policy that ensures impartiality, an essential element of integrity.
- The publication of the ABS three year Forward Work Program. This demonstrates the open statistical process by describing for each ABS program the resources, outputs, clients and uses of statistical information, and the proposed main developments over the next three years. The Forward Work Program is published in hard copy each year and is also available on the ABS web site.
- The release of information about statistical standards, frameworks, concepts, sources and methods in a range of information papers and other publications in hard copy or electronically. This ensures that the public are informed about changes to statistical processes. Details of major revisions to published data are described in the explanatory notes of the relevant publication.