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OBJECTIVE 1. DECISION-MAKING, RESEARCH AND DISCUSSIONS ARE UNDERPINNED BY RELEVANT STATISTICAL INFORMATION
KPI 1.1 AUSTRALIA'S KEY DECISIONS, RESEARCH AND DISCUSSIONS CONTINUE TO BE UNDERPINNED BY TRUSTED OFFICIAL STATISTICS
In 2014-15 ABS products and services continued to inform decisions by governments and the community. Key ABS statistics included: national accounts information; data on the labour force; the Consumer Price Index and other prices indexes; information from the Census of Population and Housing; and estimated resident population. These informed decisions on:
Use of ABS data in reports by Parliamentary Committees shows ABS data is used to inform the development and evaluation of government policies and programs. There were 68 references to ABS statistics in Parliamentary Committee reports in 2014-15. There were 850 references to ABS statistics in Hansard, showing the continued use of ABS statistics to inform public debate and decision-making. Microdata citations in academic journals have also continued, with 75 citations, showing an active use of official statistics for research purposes.
Community discussions are informed through media coverage. ABS statistics continued to be widely reported in the media, with over 6,300 articles citing ABS statistics without concerns about their quality in 2014-15 (table 4.6).
In 2014-15 the ABS commissioned a survey of Community Trust in ABS Statistics. The survey was conducted in 2015 from April to July and the results will be published in October 2015. The survey was previously undertaken in 2010, when 92% of those surveyed were found to trust or greatly trust the ABS.
KPI 1.2 STATISTICAL INFORMATION CONTINUES TO BE RELEVANT TO THE NEEDS OF KEY STAKEHOLDERS THROUGH ACTIVE ENGAGEMENT
In 2014-15 the ABS developed a stakeholder engagement strategy to revitalise stakeholder engagement as a central pillar in the ABS's organisational culture and looked for ways to partner with others to ensure information continues to be relevant. An example is the partnership with the Department of Industry and Science to expand ABS collection and analysis activities to assess new industry policy initiatives. This involved the creation of a new firm-level longitudinal business database - the Expanded Analytical Business Longitudinal Database - to provide a richer source of information for analysis of business performance, competitiveness and productivity.
The ABS uses a range of mechanisms to ensure it keeps in touch with the needs of its key stakeholders. The Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC) is the key advisory body to the ABS. Members are chosen to represent a broad cross-section of government, business, academic and community perspectives. In 2014-15 ASAC advised the ABS on: its overall statistical directions and priorities; ABS sustainability; the statistical business transformation program and wider transformation agenda; improvements to the National Statistical System through the development of a forward-looking National Statistics Policy and the Essential Statistical Assets for Australia Initiative; and plans to achieve a primarily digital Census of Population and Housing in 2016. The State and Territory Statistical Forum membership is representative of all state and territory governments. The forum works with the ABS to progress their statistical priorities. In 2014-15 this forum focused on progressing issues in relation to statistical data integration, statistical capability and measures of disadvantage.
In addition to these cross-cutting, strategic engagement forums, the ABS hosts a comprehensive range of specialist statistical and topic advisory groups. These groups advise on specific statistical developments and on emerging issues that may influence future statistical needs, in relation to their areas of expertise.
The ABS also engages with its government stakeholders by outposting ABS statisticians to other agencies. Outposted ABS officers provide strategic statistical support for specific projects and policy initiatives, build statistical capability, and provide advice on data management practices to improve the health of the Australian statistical system. In 2014-15, 31 outpostings were undertaken, up from 30 undertaken during the previous year.
OBJECTIVE 2. HIGH QUALITY STATISTICAL INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE TO INFORM AUSTRALIA'S MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES
KPI 2.1 THE QUALITY AND ACCURACY OF AUSTRALIA'S OFFICIAL STATISTICS IS MAINTAINED OR IMPROVED
In 2014-15 the ABS produced over 500 statistical products (including microdata products). For each output the ABS aims to achieve an appropriate level of quality and accuracy, while also operating cost-effectively and minimising provider burden. Quality declarations, which include statements on accuracy, are published with most key ABS statistical publications, including Australia’s three headline economic collections: National Accounts; Consumer Price Index (CPI); and Labour Force; as well as the ABS's Estimated Resident Population releases.
Developments impacting the quality of these headline measures during 2014-15 included:
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 macro economic, 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.
Each year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) assesses Australia's observance of its Special Data Dissemination Standards (SDDS). Since it is not practical for any country to observe all internationally agreed data standards, frameworks and methodologies fully, these standards provide an accepted benchmark for the main economic and population indicators for subscribing countries. In relation to official statistics produced by the ABS, in its 2014 report the IMF found that Australia met the requirements of the SDDS.
The IMF releases formal reports on countries in consultation with the national government for most years. The most recent country report on Australia was published in February 2014 and it noted that:
KPI 2.3 USE OF ABS DATA INCREASES
A high level of use of ABS statistics indicates their relevance to a broad audience. In 2014-15 there were 15.2 million visits to the ABS website, an increase of approximately 1.5 million on the previous year, and an increase of over 6.5 million since 2010-11.
Table 4.1 Key metrics of ABS website visits, use of content and online performance
(b) National Information and Referral Service.
(c) The increase in newsfeed reach in 2013-14, followed by a decline in 2014-15, was primarily due to a service Facebook offered to promote posts. The ABS used this free service in 2013-14 but ceased using it in 2014-15 when it became a charged service.
KPI 2.4 HIGH-QUALITY STATISTICAL INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE TO DESCRIBE AUSTRALIA'S MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES
In December 2014 the ABS published Essential Statistical Assets (ESA) for Australia, which holistically assessed the quality of Australia's 74 essential statistics. Overall the results were positive with most statistics assessed as meeting an acceptable standard for the quality indicators selected and having appropriate quality practices and processes in place for the purposes of ESA.
There were areas for improvement for some statistics, mainly in the quality dimensions of timeliness, accuracy and coherence. One statistic (ambient air quality) was identified as having significant quality issues for the purposes of ESA. Seven statistics were identified as having moderate quality issues for the purposes of ESA (expenditure on research and development; household income; wealth and expenditure statistics; housing affordability; income, labour and family dynamics; pollution and accumulation of waste; size and location of protected terrestrial and marine parks; and domestic household travel (time, distance and mode)).
Three statistics (biodiversity and ecosystem health; water quality of natural systems; and access to essential social services) were identified as having data gaps which meant no quality assessment was undertaken.
More details on the quality of essential statistics are available in Essential Statistical Assets for Australia, 2014 (cat. no. 1395.0). The ESA initiative is now identifying and pursuing future investment priorities.
OBJECTIVE 3. THE COOPERATION AND SUPPORT OF PROVIDERS CONTINUES
KPI 3.1 PROVIDER COOPERATION IS DEMONSTRATED THROUGH THE ACHIEVEMENT OF TARGET SURVEY RESPONSE RATES
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, however not all surveys met their targets in 2014-15, as shown in Table 4.2 below. This is due to the increasing difficulty of collecting survey forms from households and businesses. The ABS has an ongoing program of methodological research and development aimed at improving the quality of survey responses into the future and reducing the need to run surveys by using alternate sources of information such as administrative data.
Table 4.2. Response rates achieved for selected surveys
(b) Target response rate was lowered from 97% to 94% in February 2014.
(c)The Multi Purpose Household Survey covers a number of individual topics, enumerated monthly. Response rates are a simple average across all topics.
(d) Survey not conducted during the year.
To encourage the support of businesses and households the ABS actively protects the privacy of respondents. The Australian Privacy Principles complement the ABS's obligations under the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act), which require the ABS to maintain the confidentiality of information collected under the Privacy Act. The ABS meets the confidentiality requirements of the Privacy Act by ensuring information provided is securely maintained, used only for statistical purposes, and used only in aggregated tables and unidentifiable microdata files to support research and analysis.
KPI 3.2 ABS COMMITMENT TO REDUCING PROVIDER BURDEN IS DEMONSTRATED THROUGH THE MINIMISATION OF PROVIDER LOAD
The most significant factors contributing to provider burden are the number of surveys in the field, and the number of households and businesses participating in them. The number of contributing households and businesses has a direct relationship with the quality of estimates produced. More streamlined interactions with data providers (such as the use of online forms) also helps to reduce overall burden on providers, as does the increased use of administrative data rather than direct collection. In 2014-15, the ABS continued to move beyond the public data environment to explore options with telecommunications companies around mobile phones, and investigate use of satellite imagery to measure agriculture crop yields. The increased use of administrative data is highlighted in the special articles in the 2014-15 Annual Report.
The total number of hours taken by businesses to complete ABS business surveys in the 2014-15 financial year was approximately 383,000. This is an increase of 19,000 hours on the reported figure in 2013-14. Caution is advised when comparing the provider load numbers reported from one year to the next, as the ABS work program is made up of different collections each year. Some collections are conducted every year and others every two or three years. The ABS also conducts ad hoc surveys. This flexible work program allows the ABS to provide statistics more relevant to our users.
The increase in reported hours in 2014-15 has been influenced by:
These collections are: the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers; the Survey of Employee Earnings and Hours; Vineyards, Australia; the Monthly Survey of Financial Information; and the Retail Business Survey. Combined, these contributed approximately 24,100 provider load hours.
Excluding the major test undertaken for the Census of Population and Housing, the total number of hours taken by households to complete ABS household survey forms is estimated at 55,000 hours in 2014-15, a decrease of 9,000 hours from the 2013-14 total.
KPI 3.3 COMPLAINT RESOLUTION PERFORMANCE MEETS ABS SURVEY CHARTER STANDARDS
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. The overwhelming majority of businesses and households selected in ABS surveys understand and support the need for high quality statistics.
Households and businesses have a number of options if they have queries or complaints about being selected in a survey or about the processes involved. Freecall (excluding mobile phones) contact numbers are provided with all information sent to survey participants and, in most cases, when participants call these numbers their concerns are resolved by the ABS officers receiving the calls.
The ABS received 594 written queries or complaints from businesses in 2014-15 (Table 4.3). Most approaches from businesses were seeking exemption from the requirement of ongoing participation in the ABS Business Survey Program. The ABS does, at times, provide general exemptions from surveys in exceptional circumstances. Some providers are also granted temporary exemptions on compassionate grounds.
The ABS received 105 written queries or complaints from households, most of which were seeking exemption from participation in surveys. Exemption is provided to households in exceptional circumstances, usually on compassionate grounds.
Table 4.3: Written correspondence to the ABS from businesses and households selected in ABS surveys, 2011-12 to 2014-15 (a)
In 2014-15, the ABS received and responded to 37 queries from politicians advocating on behalf of constituents (Table 4.4).
Table 4.4: Correspondence to the ABS from politicians acting on behalf of constituents, 2011-12 to 2014-15
The ABS's performance against the standards for managing correspondence from businesses is summarised below in Table 4.5.
Table 4.5: Performance against ABS Surveys Charter complaint resolution standards for 2014-15: targets and actual performance
KPI 3.4 CUSTOMER SERVICE PERFORMANCE MEETS THE ABS'S SERVICE DELIVERY CHARTER STANDARDS
The ABS Service Delivery Charter outlines the ABS’s commitment to providing a high level of customer service. In 2014–15 the ABS met its commitments by:
More information about the ABS’s commitment to meeting the expectations of its customers is presented in the program reports.
OBJECTIVE 4. TRUST IN OFFICIAL STATISTICS IS MAINTAINED
KPI 4.1 AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC SENTIMENT ABOUT ABS STATISTICS REMAINS POSITIVE
Positive public sentiment regarding the ABS is represented by the number of positive and neutral media articles, which include articles citing ABS statistics without concerns about their quality. There was an increase in negative media coverage in 2014-15 (Table 4.6), following a significant increase in negative media coverage in 2013-14. The increase in 2013-14 was driven by articles regarding an ex-ABS staff member who was charged with insider trading. Negative coverage on this continued in 2014-15 and there was also negative reporting on the quality, reliability and methodology of Labour Force, Australia, and negative reporting on the future of the Australian Census of Population and Housing.
Table 4.6: Positive, negative and neutral articles in selected print newspapers, 2010-11 to 2014-15 (a)
OBJECTIVE 5. STATISTICAL CAPABILITY IS IMPROVED WITHIN AUSTRALIA, ASIA AND THE PACIFIC REGION TO SUPPORT INFORMED DECISION-MAKING, AND PROGRESS IS MADE IN THE NATIONAL AND GLOBAL STATISTICAL SYSTEMS
KPI 5.1 NATIONAL STATISTICAL LITERACY PROGRAMS EFFECTIVELY ENGAGE TARGET AUDIENCES
Adequate statistical literacy is needed to ensure statistical information is used effectively. During 2014-15 the ABS released the third, more detailed, tier of the Draft Statistical Capability Framework (the framework) to our partners in government, the community and internationally for consultation. The aim of the framework is to guide greater integration of statistical capability development effort across the ABS, and with our partners. The framework forms a key part of the infrastructure being implemented to transform the ABS's approach to building statistical capability.
During 2014-15 the ABS:
KPI 5.2 EFFECTIVE DELIVERY OF INTERNATIONAL ENGAGEMENT PROGRAMS INCREASE THE STATISTICAL CAPABILITY OF NATIONAL STATISTICAL OFFICES IN THE ASIA PACIFIC REGION
In 2014-15 the ABS continued to take a strong lead role in Asia and the Pacific region to support the development of increasingly high-quality, comparable statistics. During 2014-15 the ABS:
More information on the ABS's international statistical capability building programs in Asia and the Pacific region is provided in Program reports.
KPI 5.3 THE NATIONAL STATISTICAL SERVICES PRIORITIES ARE PROGRESSED OR MET
During 2014-15 the ABS made progress in all five of its priority areas for the National Statistical Service:
OBJECTIVE 6. STATISTICAL AND INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE IS DEVELOPED TO BETTER SUPPORT AUSTRALIA'S LONG-TERM STATISTICAL NEEDS
KPI 6.1 PRODUCTS, SERVICES AND TOOLS ARE AVAILABLE AND IMPROVED TO ASSIST PROVIDERS TO MEET THEIR OBLIGATIONS
The cooperation of Australian businesses and households is critical to the quality of ABS statistics. In 2014-15, the ABS continued to work to make digital transactions for data providers easier. Online forms are now available as an option for 80% of the business surveys run by the ABS. Of the businesses offered an online option, approximately 90% opt in. Online take up rates for households are much lower (about 22%), but still exceed the introductory target of 20%.
Initiatives undertaken in 2014-15 to improve interactions with providers include the new respondent online survey interface. Respondents selected in ABS business and household surveys can now access their online survey forms on the ABS website through an ABS Survey Account. The new service provides respondents with a single port of access for all their ABS survey obligations.
In preparation for Australia's first predominantly digital Census in 2016, a large public test of 100,000 dwellings was conducted across parts of South Australia and Western Australia in August 2014. This test confirmed that the changes to the Census approach to make online response the default option will be effective and that an online response of 65% can be expected in the 2016 Census. The 2016 Census online form has been enhanced to work across smart phones, tablets and desktops and incorporates new features to interact with the provider in real-time to clarify responses.
Further Information about the ways the ABS is supporting the Australian Government’s digital agenda to reduce red tape is provided in the special articles. More information on online forms is provided in the program reports.
KPI 6.2 THE ABS PROGRESSES NEW SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS TO SUPPORT STATISTICAL INFORMATION MANAGEMENT
In 2014-15 the ABS continued to improve its approach to statistical information management by:
KPI 6.3 THE ABS IS ACTIVELY INVOLVED IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF STATISTICAL FRAMEWORKS, METHODS AND STANDARDS
During 2014-15 the ABS continued its significant involvement in the development of statistical frameworks, standards and methods. Key contributions include:
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