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The ABS is Australia’s official national statistical agency. It was established as the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, following enactment of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. The agency became the ‘Australian Bureau of Statistics’ in 1975 with the passing of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975. This Act also established the role of the Australian Statistician and defined the functions of the ABS.
THE ROLE OF THE ABS
The ABS provides statistics on a wide range of economic, social and environmental matters, covering government, business and the community. It also has an important coordination function with respect to the statistical activities of other official bodies, both in Australia and overseas.
The ABS Corporate Plan can be found on the ABS website at http://www.abs.gov.au. The plan outlines the strategies the ABS is using to achieve its mission, and sets out the direction for the ABS to meet future challenges.
AUTHORITY AND LEGISLATION
The Census and Statistics Act 1905 provides the Australian Statistician with the authority to conduct statistical collections and, when necessary, to direct a person or an organisation to provide statistical information. The Act imposes obligations on the ABS to publish and disseminate compilations and analyses of statistical information, and to maintain the confidentiality of information collected under the Act.
Under the Statistics (Arrangements with States) Act 1956, Australian and state government statistical services have been integrated since 1958 (from 1924 for Tasmania). Although not covered by legislation, similar arrangements apply in both territories.
There were no amendments made to the Census and Statistics Act 1905 or the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 in 2007–08.
The ABS is led by the Australian Statistician—a statutory office established by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975.
A new organisational structure was implemented in the ABS from 1 July 2007. The ABS now has three statistical groups, each reporting to a Deputy Australian Statistician. These groups are:
The ABS also has four divisions reporting directly to the Statistician –
Further information about the restructure can be found in Effectiveness of activities (see Chapter 16).
The ABS has a central office in Canberra and regional offices located in the eight state and territory capitals. All regional offices, apart from the ACT Office, have some responsibilities for national statistical activities.
Regional offices are also primarily responsible for the delivery of statistical services to their state or territory. These offices have ongoing engagement with state and territory governments on statistical services and priorities, generally through state and territory committees set up for that purpose. In Western Australia and Tasmania, the Regional Director administering the ABS Regional Office is also the State Government Statistician.
All Regional Directors have a direct reporting line to a Deputy Australian Statistician (see organisational chart in this Chapter).
AUSTRALIAN STATISTICS ADVISORY COUNCIL
ASAC was established by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 to be the key advisory body to the Minister and the Statistician on statistical services. It provides valuable input to the directions and priorities of the ABS work program and reports annually to Parliament. ASAC meets twice yearly.
The functions of ASAC, as set out in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975, are to advise the Minister and the Statistician in relation to:
(a) the improvement, extension and coordination of statistical services provided for public purposes in Australia;
(b) annual and longer term priorities and programs of work that should be adopted in relation to major aspects of the provision of those statistical services; and
(c) any other matters relating generally to those statistical services.
The Chairperson of ASAC is Geoff Allen, Director, The Allen Consulting Group. ASAC members include nominees from each of the state premiers and the territory chief ministers. The other members are appointed by the Minister responsible for the ABS, and are chosen to represent a broad cross-section of perspectives, including business, government, academic
The Australian Statistics Advisory Council meeting in Canberra on 24 June 2008.
The mission of the Australian Statistics Advisory Council is:
The ABS is an agency under the Treasury portfolio. Since November 2007, the Minister responsible for the Australian Bureau of Statistics has been the Hon Chris Bowen MP, Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs.
The Hon Chris Bowen MP, Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs.
In the Portfolio Budget Statement 2007–08, the ABS has one outcome:
Informed decision making, research and discussion within governments and the community based on the provision of a high quality, objective and responsive national statistical service.
Within the context of the Portfolio Budget Statements, Output 1.1 (Australian Bureau of Statistics — national statistical service), the ABS produces and disseminates statistics in two key areas to meet the above outcome, namely:
Economic statistics are produced predominantly from the ABS business survey program. They include an extensive range of statistical outputs relating to the structure and performance of the Australian economy.
Population and social statistics are produced mainly out of the ABS household survey program. They include statistical information relating to the Australian population, including census and demographic statistics, as well as information relating to the social and economic wellbeing of the population.
Both outputs provide an objective source of information that is used by governments and the community to inform their decisions. Both areas of statistics involve extensive data collection through censuses, surveys and from administrative data sources.
The ABS statistical programs are supported by service areas that deliver assistance and advice on statistical methods, data and metadata management, information technology, client management, dissemination, human resources and other corporate services.
As noted above, the ABS has two outputs; Economic Statistics and Population and Social Statistics. Table 2.1 provides, for 2007–08, a financial summary of ABS outputs and prices of outputs. The full financial statements are provided in Section VII, Financial Statements.
Table 2.1: Summary of financial resources
The ABS conducts a discretionary grant program, which is a scholarship program in conjunction with four Australian universities. A list of grant recipients can be obtained on request, by contacting the ABS’ Financial Management Section on (02) 6252 6064.
The improved result is due to a combination of factors which reduced expenditure by $2.5m, including:
Compared to 2006–07, appropriation revenue decreased in 2007–08 due mainly to the reduction in funding for the activities related to the Census of Population and Housing. There was a corresponding decrease in the 2007–08 expenses. Other revenue was higher as a result of an increase in revenue for outposted officers and user funded surveys.
Employee expenses remained at 67% of total revenue. Within other expenses, there is an impairment/write-off of $5.1m in relation to internally generated software assets.
The 2007–08 operating result reflects the continuing financial pressures the ABS is facing. By seeking a review of long-term budget funding, the agency is aiming to build a sustainable financial future.
Table 2.3: Summary of financial position