1001.0 - Australian Bureau of Statistics -- Annual Report, 2013-14  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/11/2014   
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INTERNATIONAL ENGAGEMENT

ABS’s international role is mandated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975, section 6(f) to ‘provide liaison between Australia, on the one hand, and other countries and international organisations, on the other hand, in relation to statistical matters’.

International engagement is a key area of ABS work and it is important for a number of reasons. The ABS shapes, influences and leads the development of international statistical standards in order to enhance Australia’s international comparability, and improve the utility of international statistics for Australian decision makers across economic, environmental, population and social spheres. ABS international engagement helps make the global statistical picture more reliable, increasing the availability of credible statistics to inform the full spectrum of Australian Government and business policy and decision making.

The ABS International Relations Strategy guides the work of the organisation, supporting a more holistic approach to ABS’s international work, ensuring alignment to broader government priorities, and promoting closer relations with countries in Asia and the Pacific region. The strategy supports emerging statistical areas and recognises the need to partner with other countries to build statistical standards, capability and infrastructure.

The goals of the ABS International Relations Strategy are:

  • to shape, influence and lead the development of international statistical standards obtaining international agreement on frameworks, strategies and policies to set the direction for the future
  • to collaborate with international organisations to develop a shared set of infrastructure such as tools, methods and systems, and collaborate on best practice to ensure that ABS remains a world-class statistical organisation
  • to build capability in developing National Statistical Offices (NSOs), particularly in the Asia and the Pacific region, to improve statistical systems and standards to support information for decision-making; as well as building regional capacity of Asia and the Pacific region to take a stronger leadership role in influencing standards in the international community.

During 2013–14 the ABS continued building capability in Asia and the Pacific region and leading work in statistical standards and methodology within the global statistical community. ABS executive and senior personnel chaired and participated in key international committees and working groups, providing leadership, influencing global standards and assisting regional outcomes.

The ABS also worked in close partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to deliver statistical capability development programs in Indonesia, Timor Leste, the Pacific region and the Seychelles. Under these programs, ABS officers conducted capability development training in both NSOs and in ABS Australian offices. In the past twelve months, the ABS also hosted 10 International Development and Study visits to Australia, from countries including China, Mongolia, Samoa, Thailand, Canada, the Philippines, Myanmar and Singapore.

KEY ACHIEVEMENTS IN 2013-14

Developments to shape and influence international discussions regarding statistical frameworks and policies

The growing importance of comparable regional data in the global economy is driving increasing demand to produce high quality, timely and consistent statistics. In recent years the Australian Statistician has taken a lead role in the High-Level Group for the Modernisation of Statistical Production and Services (HLG) which was set up by the Bureau of the Conference of European Statisticians in 2010 to oversee and coordinate international work relating to the development of enterprise architectures within statistical organisations.

The High-Level Group work program and supporting governance arrangements have recently been refreshed. The ABS is represented on the executive board, all four modernisation committees, and six sub-committees developing shareable infrastructure or services. Under the HLG, a number of common reference architectures for modernisation were developed and released.

To complement this work, for the past two years the ABS has led an international collaboration initiative—the Statistical Network—with representatives of NSOs from Canada, Sweden, Norway, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Italy.

The Network’s intention is to harmonise statistical methods, systems and capabilities across international statistical institutions. Combining resources and effort to develop these projects will ensure that NSOs can benefit from the work done by the Network while incurring lower overall costs. Business architecture is now largely agreed and an Information Architecture project has been initiated.

UN Statistical Commission—UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics

Over the past year the ABS played an active role in the promotion of the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics through the United Nations Statistical Commission’s (UNSC) Friends of the Chair Group. The Fundamental Principles guides the production and dissemination of official statistics around the globe.

On 29 January 2014 the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the United Nations Statistics Division’s (UNSD) Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics. Australia, via the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, was co-sponsor of the resolution.

UN Statistical Commission—Friends of the Chair on Broader Measures of Progress

The ABS is a member of the UNSC Friends of the Chair on Broader Measures of Progress. As agreed at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, the UNSC has been asked to consider broader measures of progress in the context of global discussions about the post-2015 development agenda as well as the sustainable development agenda. The ABS contributed to the UNSC Program Review and the development of papers for the UN Post-2015 Development Agenda Open Working Groups. The ABS is a member of the DFAT-led Commonwealth Inter Departmental Committee for the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

International Statistical Information System Collaboration Community

ABS involvement strongly influenced the International Statistical Information System Collaboration Community with the five year .Stat strategic plan, including its governance and funding models. Ongoing collaboration with OECD, National Institute of Statistics, Italy (iSTAT) and Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) on the development of the .Stat product has delivered improvements, including a more reliable service to external users, and lower installation costs.

Other ABS international achievements in 2013–14 include:
  • contributing to an inventory of ‘Usage of administrative data sources for statistical purposes’ for the international group on Methodologies for an Integrated Use of Administrative Data (MIAD) in the statistical process
  • attendance and contributions at various international conferences on agricultural statistics and business registers, including continued membership of the UNSD task force on business registers, and contribution of a draft chapter on coverage for the UNSD Manual of Business Registers
  • a significant contribution to the UN System of Environmental and Economic Accounting: Applications and Extensions (SEEA–EA), and contributing papers to the London Group on Environmental Accounting
  • participation in two OECD Working Parties: i) National Experts for Science and Technology Indicators and ii) Indicators for the Information Society
  • creation of a Chief Methodologists Network comprising top methodologists from 12 countries
  • contributions to the International Expert Group on Big Data for Official Statistics
  • chairing the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe task force on Time Use Statistics and contributing to the publication Guidelines for Harmonizing Time-Use Surveys
  • contributing to the development and assessment of the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) through the World Health Organisation Mortality Topic Advisory Group. The ICD is critical to the production of Australian health information as it underpins the classification of both mortality and morbidity data
  • co-chairing the first meeting of the UN Expert Group on the Integration of Statistical and Geospatial Information (EG–ISGI) in New York—working towards establishing a global geospatial-statistical framework based on the ABS-developed Statistical Spatial Framework (SSF).

Building strong statistical capacity and capability internationally, particularly within Asia and the Pacific Region

The ABS continued to take a strong lead in statistical capability development in Asia and the Pacific region, through high level participation on international and regional committees, and delivering programs in close partnership with international organisations and DFAT. Current DFAT-funded statistical development programs include Indonesia, Timor Leste, Myanmar, Seychelles, and a regional Pacific program covering 14 countries.

UN–ESCAP Technical Advisory Group on Population and Social Statistics

The ABS co-chaired a United Nations Economic and Social Committee for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Technical Advisory Group on Population and Social Statistics which is advising the ESCAP Committee on Statistics on its 2020 vision for all countries in the Asia and Pacific region (including Australia) to have the capacity to deliver a core set of population, social, economic and environment statistics. The Committee on Statistics has endorsed what the core set of population and social statistics should be, and during 2013–14 the Advisory Group is undertaking a regional assessment of capacity to produce the core set.

The ABS also played a key role in securing support for a resolution by ESCAP for a regional approach to strengthening Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) systems particularly in developing countries. This resolution resulted in the development of a regional action framework and support for a Ministerial conference in November 2014 on the importance of CRVS improvement. The ABS represents the Australian Government on the Regional Steering Group overseeing the finalisation and promotion of this framework.

UN Statistics Institute of Asia and the Pacific

The ABS a member of the Governing Council of the UN Statistics Institute of Asia and the Pacific (SIAP) which meets annually, and also a member of the Friends of the Chair group which will report to ESCAP on strategic directions for SIAP for the next five years.

World Bank Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services

The World Bank is implementing a global partnership on Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) aimed at implementing green accounting in a critical mass of countries both developed and developing. The ABS was represented on the WAVES Policy and Technical Expert Committee during 2013.

The ABS is supporting WAVES work for South-East Asian partner and participant countries through a DFAT-funded program. While the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia are the immediate focus of work in the region, certain activities, such as regional workshops, could include other regional countries. The objective is to have participant countries compiling environmental-economic accounts based on the System of Environmental and Economic Accounts (SEEA) framework. In turn, participant countries will be able to contribute to the development of environmental-economic accounts in other countries in the region.

Asia and Pacific Commission on Agricultural Statistics


The Asia and Pacific Commission on Agricultural Statistics (APCAS) is an important regional forum for sharing and discussion on issues relating to improving agricultural and food statistics including developments under the Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics, which ABS was involved in developing. Senior ABS staff attended the Twenty-Fifth Session of APCAS in Vientiane (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) in February 2014 where the ABS presented on land management statistics.

Indonesia Program


The ABS is in year two of a three year DFAT-funded Record of Understanding (2013–2015) to build statistical capability in Badan Pusat Statistik (BPS), Indonesia’s National Statistics Office. This program builds on the long standing, mature relationship between the ABS and BPS and links closely to the broader, whole-of-Indonesian government reform agenda. The focus of the technical assistance is improvement of statistical methods, strengthening statistical infrastructure and meeting international standards for core macroeconomic data. In addition to statistical technical assistance, the program also provides statistical leadership and capability development for senior BPS management. Key areas of support in 2013–14 have included:

  • building capability across National Accounts to meet the 2008 System of National Accounts
  • guiding development of an Integrated Business Register
  • strengthening Producer Price Indexes
  • assisting with website, dissemination and data management.

Pacific Program


Following the completion of a three year DFAT program of assistance to the Pacific region (2011–13) under the Ten Year Pacific Statistics Strategy (TYPSS) Action Plan, in 2014 the ABS signed a one year Record of Understanding with DFAT to continue to build statistical capability in the Pacific Region. In 2013–14 the ABS focused on the following key areas
of support:

  • leadership and institutional strengthening—mentoring and supporting the Government Statisticians of Pacific NSOs
  • statistical capacity development in key statistical areas such as CRVS, the standardised Pacific Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES), and a regional training program for government finance statistics (GFS)
  • providing leadership to the Pacific International Comparison Program to calculate purchasing power parities
  • publishing a joint ABS/Secretariat of Pacific Community Pacific Business Register Development Guide
  • supporting improved ICT capability in Pacific NSOs through support for the Pacific ICT Working Group, and working with the University of the South Pacific (USP) to develop a course on ICT management in Pacific NSOs
  • working with donors and stakeholders to shape the future of Pacific statistics through bi-annual Pacific Statistics Steering Committee (PSSC) meetings, and design workshops to determine the next phase (2015–17) of TYPSS.

Timor Leste Program


In October 2013 the ABS signed a Technical Partnership Agreement with the Directorate General of Statistics (DGS) in Timor Leste as a part of a four year program of technical assistance to support statistical capacity building. This program began in March 2014. The ABS has already made a significant contribution, through missions and technical assistance, to the compilation of the Timor Leste Consumer Price Index (CPI), undertaking a business activity survey, and developing NSO staff capabilities.

The Statistical Capability and Capacity Development (SCCD) program is part of a larger DFAT Governance for Development program, which is fundamental to governance and long-term capability building in Timor Leste. The ABS program will build capability and capacity of the Timor Leste NSO through four key pillars:

  • Governance and Institutional Building
  • Investment in Human Capital
  • Effective Technical Support
  • Program Management and Impact.

Seychelles

Following a request for support from the Seychelles Government to DFAT, the ABS conducted a scoping mission and subsequently out-posted a senior ABS officer for 12 months to the Seychelles National Bureau of Statistics. The objective of this placement was to increase the capacity of the Seychelles National Bureau of Statistics to produce key economic statistics, with a focus on the improvements required to meet International Monetary Fund (IMF) Special Data Dissemination Standards (SDDS) by 2015.

Myanmar

During 2013–14 the ABS sent two missions to Myanmar to assist with their upcoming Census of Population and Housing—the first in the country for thirty years. The ABS is a member of the International Technical Advisory Board (ITAB) which provided strategies and advice to Myanmar on the implementation of the Census. The ITAB was established in 2012 to provide internationally recognised technical expertise and assist the Myanmar Government to successfully implement its 2014 Census in compliance with international standards.

International development study visits

The ABS receives many approaches for international study, development and technical visits from other countries, particularly countries in Asia. These visits are supported by staff from various statistical areas and provide an opportunity for discussion on the challenges and lessons learned in developing statistical standards and methodology.

Table 7.1 International development visits 2013–14

DateInternational development study visitTopicLocation
23–27 September 2013Myanmar Planning Department and Central Statistical Organisation National AccountsCanberra
7–11 October 2013Philippines National Statistics Office, World BankBusiness RegisterMelbourne
13–15 November 2013China National Bureau of Statistics, UNICEF and Shanghai Bureau of Statistics E-CensusCanberra
21–22 November 2013Statistics Singapore National AccountsCanberra
10 December 2013Statistics CanadaMicrosimulationCanberra
3–5 February 2014Bank of ThailandFinancial Accounts and Sectoral Balance Sheets Canberra
11–14 March 2014Secretariat of the Pacific CommunityHousehold Income and Expenditure Canberra
12 March 2014Statistics CanadaInternational CooperationCanberra
17–28 March 2014Samoa Bureau of StatisticsWater AccountsCanberra
23–24 June 2014National Statistical Office of MongoliaNational Accounts and Environmental AccountsCanberra

International positions held by ABS officers

The ABS is an active participant in a wide range of multilateral meetings and committees. During 2013–14 the ABS continued to develop knowledge and share expertise, contributing to the development of statistical frameworks and methods. Our strong relationship with the United Nations Statistical Commission, of which the Australian Statistician has been the Vice-Chair, continues to benefit both the global statistical system and our ability to deliver the best possible information for Australia’s own needs.

Table 7.2 International positions held by ABS officers in 2013–14

NamePositionOrganisation/committee
Jonathan Palmer
A/g Australian Statistician
(Brian Pink, up until January 2014)
Vice-ChairUnited Nations Statistical Commission
MemberOECD Committee on Statistics
MemberStatistics Committee, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
MemberUnited Nations Economic Commission for Europe Conference of European Statisticians (Trevor Sutton in caretaker role)
MemberHigh-Level Group on Strategic Development in Business Architecture for Statistics (Trevor Sutton in caretaker role)
MemberUN/ESCAP Expert Group on Opportunities and Advantages of Enhanced Collaboration on Statistical Information Management in Asia and the Pacific (Trevor Sutton in caretaker role)
Peter Harper
Deputy Australian Statistician

Population, Labour & Social Statistics Group (PLaSS)

ChairCommonwealth Conference of Statisticians
Vice-ChairCivil Registrations and Vital Statistics in Asia-Pacific Taskforce
Ian Ewing
Deputy Australian Statistician

Economic & Environment Statistics Group (EESG)

ChairUnited Nations Committee of Experts on Environmental-Economic Accounting
MemberExecutive Board of the International Comparisons Program
Trevor Sutton
Deputy Australian Statistician

ABS 2017 Group

MemberGlobal Burden of Disease
MemberStrategic Advisory Board for the Modernisation of Statistical Production and Services in Asia and the Pacific
Chris Libreri
A/g Chief Operating Officer

Strategies, Services & Technology Group (SSTG)

MemberGoverning Council of Statistical Institute of Asia and the Pacific
Gemma Van Halderen
First Assistant Statistician

Population, Education & Data Integration Division (PLaSS)

Co-ChairUN–ESCAP Committee on Statistics Technical Advisory Group on Population and Social Statistics
Co-ChairUnited Nations Statistical Commission Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management Experts Group on Integration of Statistical and Geospatial Information
MemberUNECE–OECD–Eurostat Taskforce on Measuring Sustainable Development
MemberInternational Association of Official Statistics
Member2014 International Association of Official Statistics Conference Organising Committee
MemberInternational Association of Official Statistics Young Statistician’s Competition 2014
MemberInternational Statistical Institute
Part of Australian delegationUN Global Geospatial Information Management Committee of Experts
Michael Davies
First Assistant Statistician

Macroeconomic Statistics Division (EESG)

MemberIMF Committee on Balance of Payments
MemberIMF GFS Advisory Committee
MemberPacific Statistics Steering Committee
Bruce Hockman
First Assistant Statistician

Business, Industry &Environment Statistics Group (EESG)

Co-ChairUlaanbaatar City Group
Frank Yu
First Assistant Statistician

Program Management
and Infrastructure Division (up to March 2014)

Gillian Nicoll
A/g First Assistant Statistician

Program Management and Infrastructure Division (March—June 2014)

ChairStatistical Network Steering Committee (term ended with his retirement)
MemberPlug and Play for High-Level Group on Strategic Development in Business Architecture for Statistics (term ended December 2013)
Jenine Borowik
First Assistant Statistician

Program Delivery Division (ABS 2017 Group)

ChairModernisation Committee on Products and Sources
MemberStatistical Network Steering Committee
MemberIT Advisory Board Meetings with Statistics New Zealand
MemberHigh-Level Group on Strategic Development in Business Architecture for Statistics Executive Board
MemberBig Data Partnerships
Siu-Ming Tam
First Assistant Statistician

Methodology & Data Management Division (MDMD)

MemberInternational Statistical Institute