1001.0 - Annual Report - ABS Annual Report, 2004-05  
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Contents >> Section 3 - Performance Information >> Chapter 5 - Performance Information

Chapter 5 - Performance Information

This chapter outlines the performance of the ABS in 2004–05 in terms of its outcomes and outputs as specified in the 2004–05 Portfolio Budget Statements presented to Parliament in May 2004.


ABS 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
Diagram: Outcome Measures and Output Measures


OUTCOME MEASURES

1 INTEGRITY IN STATISTICAL OPERATIONS

Performance Measures

1.1 An objective statistical service, as demonstrated by:
  • Release of reliable/accurate statistics
  • Open statistical process
  • Trust and cooperation of providers


ABS data, analysis, and interpretations are objective, and the ABS always publishes its statistics in ways which explain and inform without advocating a particular position.

The ABS statistical system is open. The ABS sets and publishes, in advance, the dates for the release of all its statistics. Access to statistics that are under embargo is strictly controlled under publicly known arrangements. The methodologies and approaches followed are based on sound statistical principles and practices, disseminated widely, and open to scrutiny.

1.1 An objective statistical service, as demonstrated by:
    • Release of reliable and accurate statistics
    • Open statistical process
    • Trust and cooperation of providers
RELEASE OF RELIABLE AND ACCURATE STATISTICS

Key measures for demonstrating reliable and accurate statistics include high response rates, extent of revisions, low sample errors and the timeliness of ABS statistics. Performance Measure 6.1 demonstrates the ABS has maintained high response rates in its major economic and social surveys and provided statistics which are subject to low sample errors and relatively minor revisions. As shown in Table 9 there was no change in the timeliness of major economic indicators during 2004–05, however the ABS did improve its timeliness for other general releases.

A key element of this performance indicator is the availability of information to enable users to make their own assessment of quality. Information on these aspects of reliability and accuracy, as well as extensive information on the statistical methods used in collections, are routinely provided in concepts, sources and methods publications, the explanatory notes in publications, and at the Statistical Clearing House web site www.sch.abs.gov.au. Additionally, details of major revisions to published data are described in the explanatory notes of the relevant publication.

Processing errors in the data may lead to the publication of a corrigenda or a complete reissue of a publication as it is ABS policy to publish corrected data as soon as possible. In 2004–05 there were nine corrigenda and eight reissues out of a total of 733 catalogued releases. Most significantly, the March 2005 edition of Retail Trade, Australia (cat. no. 8501.0) was reissued on 18 May 2005 after it was identified that the benchmark files used in estimation had not been correctly updated. Retail trade data was revised for the period July 2004 to March 2005. The impact of the error on movement estimates was most significant in the first month of each quarter, but there were minor revisions to movement estimates for the remaining two months of the quarters.

OPEN STATISTICAL PROCESS

The Australian Statistician determines which statistics are to be collected after full discussion with users, clients and the Australian Statistics Advisory Council.

The ABS continues to maintain close contact with its users through a variety of mechanisms, including:
  • a State Statistical Forum
  • user groups
  • bilateral discussions with key clients
  • standing committees
  • outposted statistical officers
  • conferences and seminars
  • day to day contact in the course of disseminating data.
The ABS Forward Work Program for 2005–06 to 2007–08, published in hard copy and also available on the ABS web site, demonstrates the open statistical process by describing ABS outputs, clients and uses of statistical information, as well as the proposed main medium term developments over the next three years.

The ABS is open about the methods used in producing statistics. The Methodology Division in the ABS is responsible for providing specialist services to meet new and ongoing demands in statistics. The Division’s key roles are advising statistical areas on appropriate statistical methods, and being the ABS’ conscience on the quality of statistical outputs. Supporting the work of the Methodology Division is the Methodology Advisory Committee (MAC) consisting of professional statisticians external to the ABS. MAC meets twice yearly and provides a forum for peer review of methodological developments in the ABS. Some of the issues considered by MAC in 2004–05 include:
  • synthesising results for the Northern Territory and Queensland based on a Western Australia survey of Aboriginal children
  • a methodology for producing synthetic microdata for income in non-survey years
  • exploring methodologies for the House Price Index
  • the general application of significance editing to economic collections.
Information about new statistical standards, frameworks, concepts, sources and methodologies are regularly published in a range of information papers and other publications, in hard copy or electronically. The release of these papers is one element in ensuring the public is informed about the statistical process.

Some specific examples of the open statistical processes in 2004–05 include:
  • establishment of the State Accounts User Group to provide strategic and conceptual advice on proposed methodologies for the development of enhanced state account statistics
  • agreement by the Rural and Regional Statistics Advisory Group of future statistical priorities as identified in the Regional Statistics Information Development Plan
  • conduct of a workshop with key stakeholders to discuss content and details of the 2005–06 Agricultural Census, and the release of Information Paper: Agricultural Census: ABS Views on Content and Procedures, 2005–06 (cat. no. 7103.0) as part of these consultations
  • release of Discussion Paper: Enhancing the Population Census: Developing a Longitudinal View (cat. no. 2060.0) accompanied by a series of seminars and meetings with interested parties seeking comment on the proposal to bring census data together over time and with other specified datasets. The ABS commissioned a Privacy Impact Assessment of the proposal, and as part of the ongoing consultation process requested the views of the Australian public on the Assessment. The Privacy Impact Assessment, the ABS’ response to the Assessment, and the submissions lodged by the Australian community can be found on the ABS web site.
Ongoing ABS research is often published in professional papers and may be presented to conferences in Australia and abroad. The papers are also generally available on the ABS web site. These papers and conferences provide the ABS with valuable peer review and suggestions in the development of new statistical products. A full list of papers presented in 2004–05 is provided at Appendix 16. Some of the topics presented at conferences include:
  • International migration: conceptual and measurement puzzles — presented to the 12th Biennial Conference of the Australian Population Association
  • Measuring violence against women in Australia — presented to the United Nations Statistical Commission and Economic Commission for Europe Conference of European Statisticians, Work Session on Gender Statistics
  • Treatment of owner-occupied housing in Australia: concepts and practices — presented to the OECD Consumer Price Index Seminar
  • Surveying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: strategies and methodologies of the Australian Bureau of Statistics — presented to the 21st International Symposium on Methodology
  • Identifying and measuring the impacts of selected drivers of socioeconomic development — presented to the 55th International Statistical Institute Conference.
The ABS continues to advertise, up to twelve months in advance, all scheduled release dates for publications. Daily press and media releases inform users of publications being released each day. This information is available on the ABS web site. The release of all publications is subject to a strict embargo policy that ensures impartiality, an essential element of integrity.

The ABS has contributed its own policies on collection and dissemination of statistics to the United Nations web site on Good Practices in Official Statistics.

TRUST AND COOPERATION OF PROVIDERS

The Census and Statistics Act 1905 (C&S Act) obliges ABS staff to maintain the secrecy and security of all data provided to the ABS under the C&S Act, and held by the ABS. Staff sign an undertaking of fidelity and secrecy under the terms of the C&S Act to ensure they are fully aware of the requirements on them. There have been no known cases of an ABS officer breaching the undertaking of fidelity and secrecy.

The ABS has an enviable reputation for preserving the secrecy of reported information, whether it is provided in response to an ABS survey or as administrative data, and for the protection of its statistical data holdings from unauthorised release.

The efficiency of ABS operations and the quality of the data collected are enhanced through maintaining the trust and cooperation of the providers of data. Integral to that process has been:
  • the development of the Business Surveys Charter
  • careful form design
  • close liaison with business and other representative groups
  • balancing the needs of users for information against the load placed on businesses in providing that information.
Each year over 100,000 businesses are selected in ABS economic surveys, some are in more than one survey. In 2004–05 a total of 300 businesses wrote to the ABS regarding provider load issues, a reduction of 97 since the previous year. Every letter received is responded to in writing by the ABS and, as provided for in the ABS Business Surveys Charter, if the complainant is dissatisfied with the response they can refer the matter to the ABS Complaints Review Officer. During 2004–05, two complainants requested the Complaints Review Officer to review the outcome of their complaint. Satisfactory outcomes for the complainant were received in each case.

TABLE 1: COMPLAINTS FROM BUSINESS SURVEY DATA PROVIDERS

2001–02
2002–03
2003–04
2004–05

Number of complaints
550
427
397
300



The ABS’ household survey program continues to have the trust and cooperation of the public and as a result is able to achieve high response rates. For further information see Performance Measure 6.1.

As part of its internal audit program, the ABS regularly audits the use of Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs), released under the provisions of clause 7 of the Ministerial Determination. This is to ensure that the requirements relating to the management and use of the files, which are agreed to by users in a legally binding undertaking, comply with the regulations. The most recent audit report into CURFs was issued in April 2004, and it confirmed that users of confidentialised unit record files are complying with the conditions specified in the undertakings. Another audit of confidentialised unit record files has commenced and will be reported on in the 2005–06 ABS Annual Report.

2 RELEVANCE OF ABS OUTPUT

Performance Measures

2.1 Statistical output which meets the needs of key users of economic and social data in terms of:
  • Support to decision making
  • Demonstrated by a high level of use
2.2 Openness of the planning process


The ABS directs its efforts to the best interests of the Australian community by ensuring that data needed for policy and research purposes are available when required. Good statistical planning, with an understanding of the current and future needs of users, is essential.

The ABS recognises that its statistical outputs must be timely and able to relate to other data so as to be relevant to informed decision making, debate, and discussions. To ensure data can be integrated, appropriate statistical frameworks such as the System of National Accounts are essential. To assist data users with interpretation of its statistics, the ABS provides analyses and explanations on data produced.

2.1 Statistical output which meets the needs of key users of economic and social data in terms of:
  • Support to decision making
  • Demonstrated by a high level of use
SUPPORT TO DECISION MAKING

The ABS provides official statistics across a wide range of economic and social matters for government, business and the Australian community.

Apart from the extensive range of existing publications and data which provide support to decision makers on a range of ongoing policy issues, the ABS continues to monitor and anticipate users’ needs through the development of new surveys, statistics, and research. The ABS seeks advice from the Australian Statistics Advisory Council to assist it in identifying the future social, economic, and environmental issues of policy significance. In addition, as part of the national statistical service, the ABS cooperates with Australian, state and territory government agencies to release statistics required by key users, which are collected as a by-product of administrative systems.

Some of the key outputs and initiatives that demonstrate where the ABS is improving support to decision makers in 2004–05 include:
  • education and training statistics — the release of Information Paper: Measuring Learning in Australia — Plan to Improve the Quality, Coverage and Use of Education and Training Statistics (cat. no. 4231.0). Improved information will further support decision making by policy makers and those delivering education and training. It will also further assist research and discussion in the wider community on learning issues and outcomes
  • crime and justice statistics — the release of Information Paper: National Information Development Plan for Crime and Justice (cat. no. 4520.0) which identifies key crime and justice issues, the data sources available to address those issues, and suggested strategies to address data gaps and deficiencies. Together these will assist policy development and inform research in this field of statistics
  • Indigenous statistics — the ABS provides ongoing support for a wide range of clients and decision makers in accessing and analysing Indigenous statistics from ABS and administrative collections, such as the Coalition of Australian Governments 2005 reports: Review of Government Services; and Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage. The ABS also released an expanded confidentialised unit record file from the 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, providing users with the capacity to analyse the survey results by detailed data item and across state and sub-state geography
  • tourism statistics — extending the scope of the Survey of Tourist Accommodation to include a range of smaller accommodation units as a result of recommendations in the 2003 Tourism White Paper, a Medium to Long Term Strategy for the Australian Tourism Industry. State tourism organisations and industry organisations expressed a very strong requirement for changes to the survey enabling the measurement of the ‘state of health’ of the tourism industry
  • population estimated — the ABS population estimates are provided to the Electoral Commissioner for use in determining representation of the states and territories in the House of Representatives. Information describing the current requirements under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 and the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 were released in Information Paper: Determining Seats in the House of Representatives — Legislative Requirements for Provision of ABS Statistics (cat. no. 3107.0.55.002)
  • price indexes — the ABS undertook research into methodologies to improve the timeliness of the House Price Index, which will assist the Australian Government and the Reserve Bank of Australia in determining policy
  • water issues — the ABS released Water Use on Australian Farms (cat. no. 4618.0). The Water Survey — Agriculture 2002–03 — was developed in response to strong demand for nationally consistent information on water use, particularly from government agencies responsible for the environment, natural resources, and agriculture and related industries. The survey forms part of a suite of natural resource management surveys conducted by the ABS
  • environment — the ABS conducted a trial of land parcel surveys using cadastres rather than the traditional business survey frame. The design and output from land parcel survey frames would be beneficial to decision makers because they could be tailored to particular regions (for example, National Action Plan
    and Natural Heritage Trust regions, and water catchments) and for some specific issues (for example, salinity and weed management)
  • health statistics — the ABS released a number of publications from the 2003 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2003 (cat. no. 4430.0); Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Disability and Long Term Health Conditions, 2003 (cat. no. 4430.0.55.001); and Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Caring in the Community, 2003 (cat. no. 4430.0.55.003). The information released will be used primarily for policy and program development and the provision of services, particularly in the areas of employment and training, aged care, transport, income support and respite care
  • innovation statistics — the ABS released Innovation in Australian Business (cat. no. 8158.0), which presents results from the Innovation Survey 2003. The survey was conducted with funding from the Department of Education, Science and Training and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources. It differed significantly from previous ABS surveys on innovation, with the scope being extended to cover most ANZSIC divisions and use of a broader definition
    of innovation than currently used internationally. This broader definition is expected to be adopted in international standards from mid–2005.
An important component of the ABS output strategy has been the release of Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs) and the Remote Access Data LaboratoryTM (RADLTM) to enable users to undertake more detailed analysis of data. In 2004–05 the ABS made available 297 CURFs, an increase of 85 CURFs from the previous year. There were 441 registered users from 51 organisations approved to access RADLTM as at 30 June 2005.

Chapters 6 and 7 contain detailed information on the components of the ABS statistical work program and improvements to the coverage of official statistics.

DEMONSTRATED BY A HIGH LEVEL OF USE

The ABS delivers results from all statistical collections as soon as practicable after the reference period, and makes them available to all users at the same time.

The ABS provides statistics and related information to users via many mechanisms, including:
  • printed publications, available for purchase through e-commerce on the ABS web site and for existing subscribers, until 1 January 2006 from the ABS national subscription service
  • free electronic copies of publications, available for download from the ABS web site from 1 July 2005
  • free access to all published statistics to national, state, university and many public libraries across the nation as part of the ABS Library Extension Program (LEP). Users can also access complete Census Community Profile Series and Classification Counts through the facility known as CLIB2001. CLIB is a census product provided free of charge to LEP-eligible libraries
  • complimentary media subscriptions to the AusStats service which provides electronic access to all ABS publications and time series data, recognising the media is the means by which many Australians discover official statistics
  • a free national telephone inquiry service for brief information requests
  • free access on the ABS web site to key statistics, summary publications, explanatory and conceptual material on ABS statistics, and a growing number of information directories
  • ABS@ and AusStats subscription services to provide users with ready access to ABS publications and to a range of multidimensional datasets in electronic format.
Free access to ABS data is also provided through media releases, media enquiries, and via the distribution of ABS reports to media offices and to members of parliament.

Accesses to ABS statistical information increased further during 2004–05. This is particularly evident in the use of the ABS web site where there was a 20 per cent increase in web site accesses. This follows on from substantial increases in previous years and reflects, in part, the expanding range of data made available on the web site.

The LEP is a partnership between the ABS and libraries which assists in the provision of ABS information to the community by providing LEP member libraries with free access to published ABS statistics. This initiative, known as eLEP, is an example of ABS’ innovative service provision and the roll out of eLEP has continued at a very pleasing rate over the last financial year.

The LEP Excellence Award was established this year to recognise and reward LEP libraries for excellence in raising their communities’ awareness, understanding and use of ABS information.

Subscribers to ABS@ increased to 13 with the New South Wales and Western Australia Governments and CSIRO signing up to the service during the year. For an annual fee, ABS@ is replicated daily into the Intranets of key client organisations enabling their staff to easily access ABS information.

The number of subscribers to publications continued to fall in 2004–05. The key reason was the reduction in the number of hard copy publications produced — a consequence of ABS’ policy to make the ABS web site our primary mechanism for dissemination. Many subscribers elect to access ABS information through eLEP, AusStats or the ABS’ e-commerce system, while others are availing themselves of the increasing amount of information available on the ABS web site.

The number of enquiries to all the most basic dissemination services (Internet Inquiry Service, National Information and Referral Service, Dial-a-Statistic-1900 and CPI Infoline) reduced by more than 10 per cent since 2003–04. This is indicative of the enhanced self help facilities now available on the ABS web site.

The ABS is undertaking a number of projects aimed at expanding the use of ABS data while also taking a more active role in determining ways to improve the statistical literacy of students. These include working with the schools’ sector to expand the range of curriculum support material provided, and coordinating the implementation of a national ‘CensusAtSchools’ initiative to coincide with the 2006 Census of Population and Housing.

TABLE 2: ACCESSES TO SELECTED DISSEMINATION SERVICES

Type of Access
2001–02
2002–03
2003–04
2004–05

Web siteAccesses
27,659,711
38,712,367
48,383,816
60,573,254
AusStatsDownloads
355,810
655,782
948,956
962,872
ABS@(a)Subscribers
8
10
10
13
Internet
inquiry
service
Emails
15,636
20,036
21,136
14,208
National Information and Referral ServiceCalls completed
119,020
100,197
85,556
60,820
Publications(b)Subscribers
9,654
6,257
4,063
3,227
Dial-a-statistic-1900Calls
8,452
7,853
6,354
5,444
CPI infolineCalls
7,333
8,363
7,982
7,035
Library Extension ProgramLibraries
515
515
519
518
Secondary providersNumber
65
(c)107
(d)140
(d)132
Remote Access Data Laboratory(e)Organis-ations with access
13
39
51

(a) Relates to the total number of organisations using the service (including some state and territory governments) at 30 June 2005.
(b) Numbers as at 30 June 2005.
(c) Includes 38 secondary distributors who include ABS data on their non-charging web sites.
(d) Includes 54 secondary distributors who include ABS data on their non-charging web sites.
(e) Service commenced in 2002–03.


The level of media reporting over recent years, by medium, is shown in Table 3. Reporting on the ABS and its statistics in the media has decreased in 2004–05. The decrease is predominantly attributed to the decline in reporting on general information about Australians, as the release of 2001 Census of Population and Housing products slows. Media reporting is expected to increase in 2005–06 as awareness campaigns for the 2006 Census intensify.

TABLE 3: MEDIA REPORTING, By placement

Year
Radio, television and Internet news placements
Newspaper and magazine placements
News releases issued

2001–02
7,088
11,138
156
2002–03
6,774
13,580
168
2003–04
12,642
(a)10,431
193
2004–05
10,157
10,103
133

(a) The ABS engaged a new media monitoring service for newspaper and magazine placements in 2003–04. As a result, the information for 2003–04 is not directly comparable with earlier years.


As shown in Table 4, the Australian media’s use of AusStats continued to increase in 2004–05, although the rate of increase has slowed. This year followed a doubling of the use of AusStats compared to 2003–04, after complimentary access was provided to the media for the purposes of reporting. Targeted marketing and ongoing training programs also contributed to the continuing increase in the usage of AusStats by the media.

The online suite of regional indicators available on the ABS web site — the National Regional Profile — has seen the largest increase in usage by the media in 2004–05.

TABLE 4: AUSSTATS USAGE BY MEDIA (FILES DOWNLOADED)

Year
Publications
Time series
spread-sheets
Census
Data
cubes
National Regional
Profile (b)
Total

2001–02
494
390
72
51
1,007
2002–03
2,034
1,721
1,339
167
5,261
2003–04(a)
3,681
4,768
1,757
464
139
10,809
2004–05
4,157
4,665
1,529
607
656
11,614

(a) Figures for 2003–04 have been revised. (b) National Regional Profiles were released in 2003–04.


2.2 Openness of planning process

ABS planning processes and decisions are open, relevant and independent. The ABS manages this by maintaining a rolling three-year forward work program which is published on the ABS web site, and this develops and allocates resources to program outputs. The external dialogue which forms such an important element of the ABS planning process is also critical to ensuring the relevance of ABS statistical output. In establishing its forward work program, the ABS is advised by the following user groups:
    • Australian Statistics Advisory Council
    • State Statistical Forum
    • state government advisory groups
    • various other formal user groups comprising, as relevant, Australian, state and territory government agencies, academics, business organisations, unions, and community groups.
These include:
    • Economic Statistics User Group
    • Business Longitudinal Database Advisory Group
    • State Accounts User Group
    • Innovation Survey Technical Reference Group
    • Time Use Survey Advisory Group
    • Technical Advisory Group on Indigenous Mortality
    • Census Indigenous Enumeration Strategy Working Group
    • Personal Safety Survey Advisory Group.
During 2004–05 a review of the Victorian Statistics Advisory Forum was conducted. A number of recommendations were implemented aimed at improving the extent to which this group represents a whole of state government view in providing input to the ABS.

Extensive consultation is also undertaken with key users in the development of specific collections once a decision has been made to include the collection in the forward work program. The information obtained through these forums is supplemented with information gathered from bilateral discussions with key clients, conferences and seminars, outposted statistical officers, and day to day contact with clients in the course of disseminating and advising on the use of data.

The process of refreshing the ABS’ highest level circulation of ABS strategic directions, the ABS Corporate Plan, began in 2004–05. Consultations have taken place with key external stakeholders, including Australian Statistics Advisory Council members, clients and other selected statistical agencies.

3 APPROPRIATE USE OF STATISTICAL STANDARDS, FRAMEWORKS AND METHODOLOGIES

Performance Measures

3.1 Lead the development of national statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies, and their implementation within the broader Australian statistical system
3.2 Contribute to the development of key international standards, frameworks and methodologies, and implement them as appropriate


A key function of the ABS is to ensure appropriate use of statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies. The ABS’ role in respect of statistical standards, and providing advice and assistance in relation to statistics, is detailed in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 as a specific function of the ABS.

3.1 Lead the development of national statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies, and their implementation within the broader Australian statistical system

An important ABS activity is the development and implementation of national statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies which are applied, as appropriate, to all ABS statistical collections, including business and household surveys. A number of publications outlining statistical standards were issued during 2004–05.

The ABS is active in encouraging other Australian, state and territory government agencies to adopt these standards, frameworks and methodologies in their statistical activities.

Achievements during 2004–05 included:
    • registration of definitional metadata for a number of collections in preparation for migration to the Input Data Warehouse (IDW). The IDW is a managed unit record data store that aims to service collection activities (including editing), analysis, research and management needs between initial data capture until movement of data to the managed output data store
    • the ABS’ provision to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) of automatic coding packages for use in the coding of businesses on the Australian Business Register according to their industrial activity. The coding package is now fully operational in the ATO business coding environment
    • completion of the final draft for the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification 2006 and the design of support tools such as automatic coders and correspondences
    • development of the revised Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG) (cat. no. 1249.0)
    • development of the revised Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG) (cat. no. 1266.0)
    • development of the revised Australian Standard Classification of Languages (ASCL) (cat. no. 1267.0)
    • development of the revised suite of Standards for Statistics on the Family, Household and Income Unit, replacing Standards for Statistics on the Family
    • contribution to the development of standards, definitions and terminologies relevant to ageing statistics
    • release of the first edition of Labour Price Index: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6351.0.55.001) providing information on what the indexes measure and outlining the various sources of the price information used to compile the indexes
    • release of Information Paper: Field of Children and Youth Statistics (cat. no. 4910.0) which provides important background and contextual material for the Children and Youth Information Development Plan
    • release of Information Paper: Measuring Learning in Australia: Dictionary of Standards for Education and Training Statistics (cat. no. 4232.0.55.001). It is expected the Dictionary will be used by government, academic and private sector organisations in data collection activities, and will improve the comparability and consistency of education and training data derived from different sources.
3.2 Contribute to the development of key international standards, frameworks and methodologies, and implement them as appropriate

The ABS continues to be an active member of the international statistical community, contributing significantly to the development of key international statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies. Some of the international developments in 2004–05 that the ABS has contributed to, or participated in, include:
    • the development of updated international national accounts standards, including hosting a key expert group meeting on the measurement of non-financial assets
    • reviewing standards governing the compilation of international economic accounts, particularly to the revision of the Balance of Payments Manual
    • the development of international statistical standards for science and technology indicators: as a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) task force on Fields of Science classification for research and development statistics and the OECD Working Party on Indicators for the Information Society; as a participant in the National Experts in Science and Technology Indicators meeting; and through presentations to the biennial Asia–Pacific Information and Communication Technology Technical meeting
    • assisting international organisations in the development of standards and providing training on issues relating to the collection of disability statistics for countries in the Asia–Pacific region (through the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific)
    • continued development of a framework for definitional metadata relating to ABS economic data that is consistent with the international standard for metadata (ISO 11179)
    • the development of a conceptual framework for definitional metadata relating to ABS household collections that is consistent with an international standard for metadata (ISO 11179)
    • input into the upcoming release of the revised United Nation’s Central Product Classification.
In addition, the ABS has implemented, or is in the process of implementing, new international standards and frameworks. Some of these include:
    • development and testing of the 2006 Adult Literacy and Lifeskills Survey. This is part of an international round of surveys being coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. It is jointly funded by the ABS, the Department of Education Science and Training, and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations
    • adaption of the International Accounting Standards for use in ABS financial statistics. The changes are outlined in Information Paper: Impact of the Implementation of International Financial Reporting Standards on ABS Statistics (cat. no. 1279.0)
    • release of Innovation in Australian Business (cat. no. 8158.0), which presents results from the Innovation Survey 2003. The survey was conducted with funding from the Department of Education, Science and Training and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources. It differed significantly from previous ABS surveys on innovation, with the scope being extended to cover most ANZSIC divisions and the use of a broader definition of innovation than currently used internationally. This broader definition is expected to be adopted in international standards from mid–2005.
The ABS also provides assistance to statistical agencies in developing nations in implementing current international standards. Assistance in 2004–05 include:
    • providing technical assistance and training material on accumulation accounts for the United Nations Statistical Institute for Asia and the Pacific
    • presenting regional training courses on international accounts statistics in Mongolia and Suva
    • completing a second phase of assistance, of 30 months, to Thailand to strengthen its macro-economic statistics
    • providing expert advice and training to Timor L’este in conducting its first population census since gaining independence
    • providing technical assistance to Statistics South Africa to improve their Consumer Price Index
    • providing technical assistance to a number of countries in the Asia–Pacific region.
The ABS also contributes to the development of key international standards, frameworks and methodologies by the prominent positions held by ABS officers on a number of international groups concerned with the development of standards. In 2004–05 these included:
    • Mr Dennis Trewin, Australian Statistician
      • Chair of the Sub-Committee on Statistics of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
      • Chair of the International Comparison Program Global Executive Board, World Bank
      • Chair of the Conference of European Statisticians Task Force on Confidentiality and Microdata
    • Mr Peter Harper, Deputy Australian Statistician, Economic Statistics Group
      • Chair of Canberra Group II on the Measurement of Non-financial Assets
      • Member of the Advisory Expert Group for the 1993 System of National Accounts Update
      • Member of the Regional Advisory Board for the Asia–Pacific International Comparison Project
    • Ms Susan Linacre, Deputy Australian Statistician, Population Statistics Group
      • Council member of the International Statistical Institute
      • Chair of Working Group 1: Standards and Frameworks and a Core Set of Outputs, United Nations Expert Group on Population and Housing Censuses.

      4 IMPROVING COORDINATION OF THE COLLECTION, COMPILATION AND DISSEMINATION OF STATISTICS PRODUCED BY OTHER OFFICIAL BODIES

      Performance Measures

      4.1 Statistical Clearing House activity
      4.2 Assisting other official bodies with the integration of administrative and statistical data, including outposting ABS officers and providing training on statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies
      4.3 Identifying, storing and disseminating statistics from other official bodies


Under section 6(c) of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975, a key function for the ABS is to ‘ensure coordination of the operations of official bodies in the collection, compilation and dissemination of statistics and related information’. It achieves this by managing the reporting load placed on businesses by Australian government agencies, and through the development of the National Statistical Service which aims to deliver the statistics required by key users, no matter what the source.

4.1 Statistical Clearing House activity

The primary objective of the Statistical Clearing House (SCH) is to reduce the reporting burden placed on business providers by Australian government agencies (including the ABS). The SCH pays particular attention to eliminating duplication in business surveys, and ensures that surveys conducted follow good statistical methodologies and practices. In view of its statistical expertise and statutory coordination role, the ABS was empowered to administer the clearance process.

Table 5 presents the number of survey reviews at various stages of completion for 2004–05. Throughout the year 116 reviews were completed, with two resulting in approval to proceed. SCH intervention has resulted in 71 instances of improved survey design and/or reduced provider load.

TABLE 5: STATISTICAL CLEARING HOUSE — Status of reviews for statistical collections, 2004–05

Completed
In Progress

ABS
33
6
Other
83
12
Total
116
18



For 2004–05, the annualised load imposed on providers by non-ABS surveys reviewed by the SCH has been estimated at 34,107 hours.

The annualised load for non-ABS surveys has reduced by more than 30 per cent since 2003–04, in part due to a fall in the number of reviews completed by the SCH.

TABLE 6: STATISTICAL CLEARING HOUSE — Completed reviews of statistical collections

Year
ABS
Other
Total

2000–01
40
70
110
2001–02
38
77
115
2002–03
52
117
169
2003–04
33
87
120
2004–05
33
83
116



The SCH’s Australian Government Business Surveys Register (available on the Internet at www.sch.abs.gov.au) provides access to information on collections that have already been conducted including survey design standards and best practices for organisations developing surveys. Metadata relating to 965 surveys are currently disseminated on the SCH web site.

4.2 Assisting other official bodies with the integration of administrative and statistical data, including outposting ABS officers and providing training on statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies

The ABS continued in 2004–05 to develop the National Statistical Service (NSS) by broadening the concept of ABS statistical responsibilities to include not only statistics collected by the ABS, but also data produced or available from other government and non-government agencies. The ABS provides leadership to Australian, state and territory government agencies in making better use of their administrative data so that it can provide another source of quality data for statistical purposes. The ABS encourages agencies to adopt a holistic approach to improving the quality of statistics available to users through the application of similar methodologies to administrative and statistical data.

In pursuing the development of the National Statistical Service some of the main achievements in 2004–05 include:
    • further developing the National Data Network, a national platform for acquiring data based on shared protocols and facilities, including the release of a National Data Network demonstration system
    • supporting statistical fora in each jurisdiction to share information on better statistical practice.
One of the ways the ABS achieves its objective of providing leadership is by developing Information Development Plans (IDPs). The intention of the IDP is to identify, in close consultation with key users, the issues to be addressed in a particular field of statistics, the available data (both ABS and non-ABS), the additional data needed and who has carriage for provision of the data. IDPs assist the ABS in improving the quality, coverage and use of statistics examined which will better support decision making by policy makers and assist research and discussion in the wider community on relevant issues and outcomes. There are a number of IDPs, in various states of progress, addressing statistical topics such as crime and justice, children and youth, information and communication technology, mining, manufacturing, education and training, rural and regional statistics, and emergency management.

Achievements during 2004–05 included:
    • release of an information development plan for the education and training sector, Information Paper: Measuring Learning in Australia — Plan to Improve the Quality, Coverage and Use of Education and Training Statistics (cat. no. 4231.0). The improvement in information will better support decision making by policy makers and those delivering education and training. It will also better assist research and discussion in the wider community on learning issues and outcomes
    • release of Information Paper: National Information Development Plan for Crime and Justice (cat. no. 4520.0) which identifies key crime and justice issues, the data sources available to address those issues, and suggested strategies to address data gaps and deficiencies
    • release of Information Paper: Children and Youth Information Development Plan — Project Plan (cat. no. 4909.0) which aims to improve the quality and quantity of data available on this population group and facilitate access to this data.
Another way the ABS achieves its objective of providing leadership is by outposting statistical officers to Australian, state and territory government agencies with a view to facilitating access to, and understanding of, statistics, and strengthening statistical coordination across these bodies. A total of 41 ABS officers were outposted to Australian, state and territory government agencies during 2004–05, an increase of 4 from the previous year. The majority of these outpostings were short term placements.

TABLE 7: GOVERNMENT ORGANISATIONS WITH ABS OUTPOSTED OFFICERS, 2004–05

Long term
Short term

Australian
8
1
State and territory
8
24
Total
16
25



Examples of new partnerships with Australian, state and territory government agencies to identify and utilise a greater range of administrative data that are currently under way include:
    • forming a partnership with the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority to utilise administrative data in the compilation of the sectoral compilation of Australian National Accounts: Financial Accounts (cat. no. 5232.0) and also in the compilation of Managed Funds, Australia (5655.0). The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority uses the data to derive measures of the size of the superannuation industry and to monitor trends within the industry
    • signing a Memorandum of Understanding between Family and Community Services, the Australian Institute of Family Studies, and the ABS in relation to the management of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, and undertaking a range of survey services for wave 2 of the Study.
Some of the key achievements in assisting Australian, state and territory government agencies through statistical consultancies, statistical analysis, modelling of existing ABS or client data, and statistical training or seminars for clients and users include:
    • providing an outposted ABS officer to the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries to investigate improvements in survey methodology, and compare fisheries data between the states and Tasmania
    • assisting the Tasmanian Department of Treasury and Finance to analyse Tasmanian employment by industry labour force estimates in assessing the volatility of the estimates
    • organising and presenting a number of training courses in New South Wales and Victoria involving key state agencies to assist clients to understand the indicators and how the statistics can be used
    • the release of a joint publication with the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care, Older People, New South Wales (cat. no. 4108.1)
    • providing data and advice to the Office of Senior Victorians to assist with developing a series of wall charts about older people
    • developing a paper ‘Queensland Seniors: Ageing Well?’ presented at the Council of the Ageing and National Seniors Association symposium
    • assessing the impact of rising house prices on the Western Australia economy to assist the community to understand the recent changes in the market conditions
    • reviewing Western Australia housing projections with a view to improving the estimates
    • creating a joint unit with the South Australian Government to work on statistical projects that will assist in the development of government policy.
4.3 Identifying, storing and disseminating statistics from other official bodies

As part of its commitment to provide an expanded and improved national statistical service, the ABS plays a significant role in identifying, storing and disseminating statistics from other official bodies, particularly those derived from administrative systems. Examples during 2004–05 include:
    • obtaining agreement from non-ABS agencies to load their metadata from specified data collections on to the proposed Directory of Statistical Sources
    • developing a new quarterly Survey of Superannuation, based on data collected by the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority
    • introducing, in the July 2004 issue of Retail Trade, Australia (cat. no. 8501.0), estimates using a new sample design and an improved estimation method utilising Business Activity Statement data provided by the Australian Taxation Office
    • expanding the National Regional Profile on the ABS web site to provide a time series of headline indicators for Australia’s regions.
In recent years the ABS has also produced a range of statistical directories to provide users with information on sources of statistics (both from the public and private sectors) for particular topics. Some of the directories include:
    • government finance statistics
    • superannuation related statistics
    • education and training statistics
    • transport statistics
    • culture and leisure statistics
    • prices statistics
    • energy statistics.


    OUTPUT MEASURES


    5 INCREASE IN THE QUANTITY OF OUTPUT

    Performance Measure

    5.1 Increase the range of statistics disseminated
    5.2 Innovative outputs


During 2004–05 the ABS continued to increase its outputs by increasing the range of statistics disseminated and by producing new and innovative products.

5.1 Increase the range of statistics disseminated

ABS printed and electronic publications, released by subject matter and frequency for 2001–02 to 2004–05, is detailed in Table 8. This table presents indicators of the volume of outputs for the ABS. The total number of publications released in 2004–05 was 733, a slight increase over 2003–04.

TABLE 8: ABS RELEASES(a) CLASSIFIED BY SUBJECT MATTER, YEAR AND FREQUENCY (Number)

Subject Matter/Year
Annual
Quarterly
Monthly
Other
Total

Economic and finance releases
2002–03
23
58
86
3
170
2003–04
9
40
61
11
121
2004–05
11
33
47
5
96
Industry releases
2002–03
17
123
75
20
235
2003–04
15
91
70
27
203
2004–05
26
78
63
28
195
Population and migration releases
2002–03
46
4
18
99
167
2003–04
35
4
18
56
113
2004–05
36
3
24
14
77
Labour releases
2002–03
9
42
69
12
132
2003–04
6
41
52
12
111
2004–05
6
50
36
33
125
Social analysis releases
2002–03
14
4
27
45
2003–04
13
4
64
81
2004–05
14
3
44
61
Other general releases
2002–03
31
24
42
15
112
2003–04
34
19
36
9
98
2004–05
30
16
(b) 118
15
179
Total
2002–03
140
255
290
176
861
2003–04
112
199
237
179
727
2004–05
123
183
288
139
733

(a) Includes catalogued publications and other products, but excludes reprints and corrigenda.
(b) Catalogue numbers assigned to the Reserve Bank of Australia spreadsheets.

Another indicator of the volume of outputs is the number of pages on the ABS web site. The number of pages on the ABS web site has decreased slightly from 308,000 pages in 2003–04 to 285,000 pages in 2004–05, due to the removal of the Integrated Regional Data Base data reference guide.

The extent to which the ABS has extended the range of statistics disseminated is perhaps best demonstrated by the large range of new publications or products released during 2004–05. Some of the more topical include:
    • Australian Outward Foreign Affiliates Trade, 2002–03 (cat. no. 5495.0), containing survey results on the number, industry, sales, purchases, employment, and wages and salaries of foreign affiliates of Australian resident enterprises
    • Contribution of Gambling to Retail Estimates (cat. no. 8501.0.55.003), presenting information about net proceeds received from licensed gambling activities undertaken by businesses in the pubs, taverns, bars and clubs (hospitality) industries. These industries are called ‘Hotels and licensed clubs’ in Retail Trade, Australia (cat. no. 8501.0)
    • Apparent Consumption of Alcohol, Australia (cat. no. 4307.0.55.001), providing estimates of the quantity of beer, wine and spirits available for consumption for the years 1996–97 to 2002–03. It also includes an estimate of the apparent consumption of these products by persons aged 15 years and over
    • Private Sector Construction Industry, Australia (cat. no. 8772.0), based on output from the 2002–03 Construction Industry Survey which collected information on the structure and performance of the construction industry
    • Private New Capital Expenditure and Expected Expenditure, Australia (cat. no. 5625.0) presenting an experimental series on projected capital expenditure which aims to provide more guidance to users of capital expenditure expectations data
    • Environment Expenditure, Local Government, Australia (cat. no. 4611.0), presenting estimates of expenditures and revenues relating to environment protection and natural resource management by local government authorities of Australia
    • Water Use on Australian Farms 2002–03 (cat. no. 4618.0), presenting estimates of agricultural irrigation water use and management in Australia in 2002–03. The estimates have been compiled from the first detailed collection of data on irrigation water use and management from irrigating agricultural establishments
    • Experimental Estimates and Projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 1991 to 2009 (cat. no. 3238.0), which contains experimental estimates of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population of Australia based on the 2001 Census of Population and Housing. It also contains experimental projections of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population for the period 2002 to 2009
    • A series of publications on disability statistics, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings (cat. no. 4430.0); Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Disability and Long Term Health Conditions, 2003 (cat. no. 4430.0.55.001); and Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Caring in the Community (cat. no. 4430.0.55.003)
    • Sexual Assault in Australia: A Statistical Overview (cat. no. 4523.0), providing a statistical overview of the prevalence of sexual assault in Australia, and providing an analysis of currently available information across the whole field of sexual assault
    • Housing Occupancy and Costs, Australia, 2002–03 (cat. no. 4130.0.55.001), providing information on housing costs such as rates, mortgage and rent payments
    • Arts and Culture in Australia: A Statistical Overview (cat no. 4172.0), a companion publication for the compendia on sport statistics released in the previous year
    • Perspectives on Regional Australia: Women’s Employment in Urban, Rural and Regional Australia, 2001 Census (cat. no. 1380.0.55.001). This publication was the first in a series of reports analysing a range of topics with a particular focus on regional Australia
    • Mature Age Persons Statistical Profile: Living Arrangements (cat. no. 4905.0.55.001) providing an insight into the characteristics of mature age persons
    • a series of information papers on children and youth statistics, Information Paper: Key Issues Relating to Children and Youth (cat. no. 4908.0); and Information Paper: Field of Children and Youth Statistics (cat. no. 4910.0)
    • Measures of Australia’s Progress: Summary Indicators (cat. no. 1383.0.55.001), a new annual electronic publication which complements the biennial Measures of Australia’s Progress (cat. no. 1370.0), and presents an update of the headline dimensions (and the headline indicators within those dimensions) covering the key areas of economic, social and environmental progress in Australia.
5.2 Innovative outputs

In addition to the new statistics released in the publications listed in Performance Measure 5.1, the ABS has conducted research which has led to the release of innovative new estimates, classifications and publications. Research undertaken includes:
    • an experimental index measuring price changes for financial services acquired by households, released in Information Paper: Experimental Price Indexes for Financial Services, 1998 to 2003 (cat. no. 6413.0). The experimental indexes will be incorporated into the consumer price index in the September quarter 2005 publication in conjunction with the introduction of new weights as part of the ‘15th Series Review’
    • the development and implementation of hedonic price indexes for personal computers, including the release of Information Paper: The Introduction of Hedonic Price Indexes for Personal Computers (cat. no. 6458.0)
    • the introduction of concurrent seasonal analysis into balance of payments, housing and other lending finance statistics to improve the accuracy and consistency of the seasonally adjusted series.
Other innovative outputs released by the ABS in 2004–05 include:
    • release of Australian Industry (cat. no. 8155.0); Mining Operations, Australia (cat. no. 8415.0); and Manufacturing Industry, Australia (cat. no. 8221.0), which presented 2001–02 and 2002–03 results using the new Australian Business Register based population framework
    • release of Information Paper: Experimental Estimates of Personal Income for Small Areas, Taxation and Income Support Data, 1995–96 to 2000–01 (cat. no. 6524.0). Estimates were compiled using a combination of aggregated individual income tax data from the Australian Taxation Office and aggregated income support data from the Department of Family and Community Services.
Some of the outputs, both basic (on CD-ROM) and expanded confidentialised unit record files using the Remote Access Data LaboratoryTM during 2004–05, were results from the:
    • 2002–03 Survey of Income and Housing
    • 2002 General Social Survey
    • both the 1999 and 2002 cycles of the Child Care Survey.

    6 IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF OUTPUTS

    Performance measures

    6.1 Achieve or exceed timeliness, statistical reliability, response rates and accuracy objectives:
    • Timeliness
    • Statistical reliability
    • Response rates
    • Accuracy
    6.2 Conduct ongoing research and reviews of quality, and implement their recommendations:
    • Outlines of ABS statistical reviews
    • Innovative practices — improvements to existing collections as a result of research and development


The quality of ABS outputs is critical to ensuring the ABS achieves its mission of assisting informed decision-making. The ABS measures the quality of its outputs with reference to their timeliness, statistical reliability, collection response rates and accuracy.
    6.1 Achieve or exceed timeliness, statistical reliability, response rates and accuracy objectives:
      • Timeliness
      • Statistical reliability
      • Response rates
      • Accuracy

TIMELINESS

The timeliness of ongoing series is measured by the gap between the reference period and the date of publication of results. The ABS continues to adhere to preannounced release dates and make improvements, where possible, to the timeliness achieved. Table 9 presents information on the timeliness for ABS monthly and quarterly publications for main economic indicator statistics, and other general releases.

The average number of days elapsed between the end of the reference period and the release of data for main economic indicator statistics has remained constant in 2004–05. The average release time for quarterly other general releases has improved from last year due to a reduction in the days taken to release the comprehensive tourist accommodation small area data, and releasing two new publications in electronic format only.

TABLE 9: TIME BETWEEN END OF REFERENCE PERIOD AND RELEASE OF DATA (Average number of elapsed days)

Main economic indicator statistics
Other general releases


Year
Monthly
Quarterly
Monthly
Quarterly

2001–02
29
51
34
78
2002–03
28
49
33
74
2003–04
29
51
26
85
2004–05
29
51
25
75



STATISTICAL RELIABILITY

The ABS has recently introduced concurrent seasonal analysis into the balance of payments, housing and other lending finance statistics to improve the accuracy and consistency of the seasonally adjusted series. Concurrent seasonal adjustment uses the data available at the current reference period to estimate seasonal factors for the current and previous months. Under this method, the estimates of the seasonal factors are fine tuned as new original estimates become available each period. The seasonally adjusted estimates are subject to revisions at each reference month as the estimates of seasonal factors are improved. This method eliminates the need for projecting forward factors.

As discussed in Performance Information 1.1 there was an issue of major concern regarding the reliability of ABS statistics during the year when, on 18 May 2005, the ABS released revised monthly retail statistics for the period July 2004 to March 2005. An independent review was commissioned by the ABS to identify the areas where improvements could be made to procedures and the ABS will implement the necessary changes to ensure the error is not repeated.

One measurable component of statistical reliability is revisions to data. Revisions are generally measured by their size and frequency over time. The ABS aims to minimise revisions as much as possible through effective sample and methodological design. It is also ABS policy to inform users of any significant revisions, and where appropriate, to revise past time series and advise users accordingly. Information on revisions to the Gross Domestic Product and the Current Account Deficit is provided below.

Revisions to quarterly Gross Domestic Product

Table 10 describes the revisions to quarterly Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the past several years. In particular, it shows the difference between the first estimate of GDP and that estimate one year later, in terms of the mean revision and the mean absolute revision expressed as percentage points. The figures continue to show that revisions to quarterly GDP in recent years remain relatively small (mean absolute revision), but with some increase in the most recent year. Zero mean revision figures indicate that the revisions to quarterly GDP over the year have been offsetting. Despite the revisions to quarterly GDP being quite small, efforts to further improve the estimates are ongoing. In particular, there will be investigations into the larger revision in the most recent year to determine if it is due to systemic factors.

TABLE 10: REVISION TO GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT, Percentage change(a)

Difference between first estimate and estimate one year later


Year
Mean absolute revision
% points
Mean revision
% points

1999–2000
0.1
0
2000–01
0.2
0
2001–02
0.2
0
2002–03
0.1
0
2003–04(b)
0.3
0.3

(a) Seasonally adjusted chain volume measure.
(b) Figures based on three quarters of GDP data.


Revisions to the quarterly Current Account Deficit

Table 11 shows the revisions to the quarterly Current Account Deficit averaged over the financial year for 1999–2000 to 2003–04. Similar to Table 10, the mean revision shows the percentage difference between the first estimate of the current account deficit, and that estimate one year later, averaged over the four quarters for the year. The mean absolute revision shows the average absolute values of the mean revision. The revisions to the current account deficit are expressed in percentage terms however, rather than percentage points as is the case with the revisions to GDP.

A decreasing trend in the mean absolute revisions to the quarterly current account deficit since 1999–2000 is shown in Table 11. The smaller the revision, the more likely the released estimates are reliable. Although the mean absolute revision for the latest complete financial year is considered very good at around two per cent, earlier years’ figures of around five per cent were also considered acceptable. Between 2000–01 and 2002–03 the revisions to the quarterly current account deficit have been in the same direction.

TABLE 11: REVISIONS TO CURRENT ACCOUNT DEFICIT, Level estimates(a)

Difference between first estimate and estimate one year later


Year
Mean absolute revision
%
Mean revision
%

1999–2000
5.4
0.3
2000–01
4.3
–1.2
2001–02
3.1
–2.9
2002–03
2.3
–2.3
2003–04 (b)
1.3
1.2

(a) Original data.
(b) Figures based on three quarters of the data.


RESPONSE RATES

The ABS has consistently had very high response rates. Past international benchmarking studies have shown these response rates compare favourably with other international statistical organisations.

Since response rates vary little over time, especially for sub-annual surveys, it is more appropriate to report against target response rates than changes in the rates from year to year. Table 12 shows that except for the Labour Force Survey, response rates for selected economic collections either achieve or exceed the target response rates set by the ABS. The Labour Force Survey response rate is an average of the monthly response rates available throughout 2004–05, and is only 1 percentage point lower than the target response rate. Computer Assisted Interviewing (CAI) was embedded into the Monthly Population Survey in 2004–05 after a phase-in period beginning at the end of 2003. Analysis of response rates indicates that CAI response rates have been consistently lower than those achieved in the previous environment. This result was expected as interviewers were new to the CAI system, procedures and processes. The ABS is predicting rates will improve in the future with increased experience and training of interviewers.

Response rates for the Australian Industry Survey and the Manufacturing Survey conducted in 2004–05 are not yet final. However, past experience has shown that these figures either remain stable or may rise as surveys are finalised. Both surveys already exceed target response rates.

It is important to note that in regard to business surveys, follow up procedures tend to focus on the more significant businesses, that is, those with typically high sales or employment relative to the rest of the industry. For example, the response rate for businesses in the manufacturing survey might be 92 per cent, but the businesses that have responded may comprise 96 per cent of the total employment in the industry.

TABLE 12: RESPONSE RATES FOR SELECTED ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Survey
Target
response rate
(%)
2003–04
actual response rate
(%) (a)
2004–05
actual response rate
(%) (a)

Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0)
97
97
96
Labour Price Index, Australia (cat. no. 6345.0)
98
98
99
Retail Trade, Australia (cat. no. 8501.0)
96
95
96
Australian Industry (cat. no. 8155.0) (b)(c)
90
92
(d)91
Private New Capital Expenditure and Expected Expenditure, Australia
(cat. no. 5625.0)
80
89
89
Business Indicators, Australia (cat. no. 5676.0)
80
87
85
Building Activity, Australia (cat. no. 8752.0)
95
96
95
Manufacturing Industry, Australia (cat. no. 8221.0) (b)
90
91
(d)92
Museums, Australia (cat. no. 8560.0) (b)(e)
90
90
Public Libraries, Australia (cat. no. 8561.0) (b)(f)
95
95
95
Tourism Marketing Expenditure, Australia (cat. no. 8691.0) (b)(e)
70
89

(a) Average response rates over the year for sub-annual surveys.
(b) Annual surveys. The response rates refer to surveys conducted in the year listed, but for which the reference period is one year prior.
(c) The response rate for this survey is based on the Economic Activity Survey direct collection.
(d) Response rates were not finalised as at end June 2005.
(e) Due to changes in scope and coverage the current year’s survey is not directly comparable with historical surveys.
(f) Previous survey was conducted in 1999–2000.


The response rates for selected social surveys are listed in Table 13. High response rates were achieved for social surveys in 2004–05, and in all but one case the target response rate was exceeded. The only survey in which the target response rate was not achieved was the expenditure, income, housing and wealth component of the Household Income and Expenditure Survey. Despite not achieving the target, the result is considered acceptable. Target response rates are not provided for the Energy Use and Conservation, Education and Work, and Childcare Surveys since they are supplementary surveys to the Monthly Population Survey.

TABLE 13: RESPONSE RATES FOR SELECTED SOCIAL SURVEYS

Survey
Target
response rate
(%)
Previous survey actual response rate
(%)
2004–05
actual response rate
(%)

Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings
(cat. no. 4430.0) (a)
84
84
89
National Health Survey: Summary of Results (cat. no. 4364.0) (b)
90
92
93
Environmental Issues: People’s Views and Practices (cat. no. 4602.0)
n.a.
94
93
Education and Work, Australia (cat. no. 6227.0)
n.a.
94
93
Child Care, Australia (cat. no. 4402.0)
n.a.
96
94
Household Expenditure Survey, Australia: Summary of Results
(cat. no. 6530.0) (c)
73
73
71
Household Income and Income Distribution, Australia (cat. no. 6523.0) (c)(d)
80
77
87

n.a. — Not applicable
(a) The survey was previously conducted in 1998.
(b) 2004–05 figures are preliminary.
(c) Presents results from the Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2003–04. Approximately 7,000 households responded to the expenditure, income, housing and wealth questions while a subset of approximately 4,400 households (including 300 households which had not provided adequate expenditure information) responded to the income, housing and wealth questions. The response rates provided are for each component. The additional 300 households are not included in the response rate for the income, housing and wealth component.
(d) The 2002–03 Survey of Income and Housing collected income and housing data only.


ACCURACY

While all ABS outputs maintain high levels of accuracy in all tables, graphs and text, two types of error are possible in estimates based on sample surveys: sampling error, and non-sampling error. Sampling errors occur because a sample rather than the entire population is surveyed. One measure of the likely difference resulting from not including all units of the population in the survey is given by the standard error. It is ABS policy that standard errors are included in survey publications, along with the descriptions of other types of errors to which outputs may be subject. Non-sampling errors arise from inaccuracies in collecting, recording and processing the data and can occur in any statistical collection. The ABS ensures non-sampling errors are minimised by careful design of questionnaires, intensive training and supervision of interviewers, and efficient data processing and editing procedures.

The following example illustrates the use of the standard error in quantifying sampling error for unemployed persons in the Labour Force Survey. The published original level estimate for unemployed persons in Australia in May 2005 was 542,200. The calculated standard error for this estimate was 9,000. The standard error is then used to interpret the level estimate. For example:
    • there are approximately two chances in three that the real number of unemployed persons falls within the range of 533,200 to 551,200 (i.e. 542,200 plus or minus 9,000)
    • there are approximately 19 chances in 20 that the real number of unemployed persons falls within the range of 524,200 to 560,200 (i.e. 542,200 plus or minus 18,000).
The magnitude of standard errors varies between collections due to factors such as the sample size and the value of the estimate in question. Therefore it is impossible to compare standard errors between different surveys or even between variables within the same survey. The Relative Standard Error (RSE), obtained by expressing the standard error as a percentage of the estimate to which it refers, is a much more useful measure in that it provides an immediate indication of the percentage errors likely to have occurred due to sampling, and thus avoids the need to refer also to the size of the estimate. The RSE is also a good indicator for comparing the accuracy of estimates between surveys.

Tables 14 and 15 present a summary view of the accuracy for key aggregates from a number of major ABS publications as expressed by their RSE. The low RSE in both tables highlights the accuracy of ABS’ statistical collections. In most cases the RSE for the selected economic and social surveys have remained stable in 2004–05. One of the larger increases in RSE occurred for Company Gross Operating Profit in the Business Indicators Survey. The reason for this increase was mainly due to an expanded scope (from 30,000 companies to one of several hundred thousand), with the inclusion of modelled data for small businesses. Although not previously conducted, the Tourism Marketing Expenditure Survey shows a much higher RSE than other surveys in these tables. While considered acceptable, this result was due to the wide diversity of business operations included in the scope of this survey. Detailed information is available from the publications, or the concepts, sources and methods publications associated with the collections themselves.

TABLE 14: RANGE OF RELATIVE STANDARD ERRORS FOR SELECTED ECONOMIC INDICATORS(a)

SurveyKey aggregate
2003–04
Relative standard
error
(%)
2004–05
Relative standard
error
(%)

Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0)Unemployed Persons in Australia
1.6
1.6
Retail Trade, Australia (cat. no. 8501.0)Total Retail Turnover in Australia
0.9
0.8
Australian Industry (cat. no. 8155.0) (b) (c)Total income (all industries)
0.4
0.4
Private New Capital Expenditure and Expected Expenditure, Australia
(cat. no. 5625.0)
Actual new capital expenditure, Australia
1.3
1.5
Business Indicators, Australia (cat. no. 5676.0)Company gross operating profit
1.1
1.7
Building Activity, Australia (cat. no. 8752.0)Value of work done
0.8
0.6
Manufacturing Industry, Australia (cat. no. 8221.0) (b) (c)Sales and services income
0.3
0.5
Museums, Australia (cat. no. 8560.0) (b)(d)Total income
n.a.
1.8
Public Libraries, Australia (cat. no. 8561.0) (e)Total income
n.a.
0.9
Tourism Marketing Expenditure, Australia (cat. no. 8691.0) (b)(d)Total income
n.a.
8.4

(a) For sub-annual surveys the relative standard error is an average over the year for the available periods.
(b) The relative standard errors refer to surveys conducted in the year listed, but for which the reference period is one year prior.
(c) 2004–05 figures are preliminary.
(d) Due to changes in scope and coverage the current year’s survey is not directly comparable with historical surveys.
(e) Previous survey in 1999–2000 was a Census of Libraries.


TABLE 15: RANGE OF RELATIVE STANDARD ERRORS FOR SELECTED SOCIAL SURVEYS

SurveyKey aggregate
Previous survey
relative standard error
(%)
2004–05
relative standard error
(%)

Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings
(cat. no. 4430.0) (a)
Number of persons with a disability
0.5
1.2
Household Expenditure Survey, Australia: Summary of Results
(cat. no. 6530.0)
Total goods and services expenditure, Australia
0.8
0.8
Household Income and Income Distribution, Australia (cat. no. 6523.0)Mean equivalised disposable income
0.7
0.8

(a) The survey was previously conducted in 1998. There was a different standard error estimation method used between the 1998 and the 2003 survey. For this reason the relative standard errors are not directly comparable.


    6.2 Conduct ongoing research and reviews of quality, and implement their recommendations:
      • Outlines of ABS statistical reviews
      • Innovative practices — improvements to existing collections as a result of research and development

OUTLINES OF ABS STATISTICAL REVIEWS

The ABS reviews its statistical collections regularly to ensure its statistics are of good quality and continuing relevance. Some reviews cover all aspects of a particular collection from user requirements, through to data collection, processing, analysis and dissemination. Other reviews focus on particular elements of collections, such as the methodology.

In reviews of statistical collections, external users are widely consulted and, in some instances, external users assist the review team.

Reviews in 2004–05 include:
    • completion of a number of internal reviews to examine the monthly Retail Trade statistics
    • completion of an independent review, commissioned by the ABS, to examine the ‘Retail Trade Statistics Error’. Mr John Cornish, recently retired Chief Methodologist at Statistics New Zealand, made a number of recommendations to help prevent or minimise a repeat occurrence of similar errors in ABS survey systems and to help detect similar errors sooner in operation
    • completion of a major review of ABS statistics on working arrangements. The purpose and scope of the working arrangements review was to inform data users of some of the issues involved in compiling the data, and to collect detailed information about their data needs
    • completion of a review into the treatment of the non-observed economy in the national accounts, which found that it was considered unlikely the current estimates of Gross Domestic Product understate, to any significant degree, missed non-observed activity in the economy
    • conduct of a major ‘fitness for purpose’ review of the Survey of Motor Vehicle Use to critically assess how well the outputs meet the needs of users. Key users of the data noted that while the survey is producing the right data items, frequency, and level of detail, enhanced accuracy is an area in which the ABS could focus future development work
    • completion of a review of ABS’ population estimates and processes by Dr Douglas Norris of Statistics Canada to assess the methodology used to produce the estimates and their overall quality. Although this review did not identify any major problems with the estimates program, a number of recommendations were made to which the ABS is in the process of responding
    • conduct of a review of the conceptual basis and commencement of methodological development work for estimating net overseas migration accounting for frequent border crossing patterns of both long term visitors to Australia and Australian residents living overseas long term to improve the quality of the statistics
    • commencement of a review of national crime surveys, with input from key stakeholders, with a view to developing and implementing a new model for collecting indicators of crime and safety, taking account of the key information needs and frequency required.
INNOVATIVE PRACTICES — IMPROVEMENTS TO EXISTING COLLECTIONS AS A RESULT OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

Apart from the ongoing reviews of ABS statistical collections, research and development in subject matter areas continues to result in innovative practices for the collection and compilation of data. The results of innovative practices are twofold. First, it leads to more reliable and accurate statistics. Second, it may lead to reduced provider load.

Some of the innovative practices introduced or developed during 2004–05 include:
    • full implementation of computer assisted interviewing in the monthly Labour Force Survey
    • development of national standards for use in Computer Assisted Telephone Interview surveys of health for inclusion in the National Health Data Dictionary
    • recruitment of Indigenous Engagement Managers who will play a crucial function in rolling out the ABS Indigenous Community Engagement Strategy
    • successful testing of new imputation methodology for the 2006 Census which involves using dwelling structure and credible source information on the number of persons that is obtained from collectors in the field
    • successful transition to data sourced from the exports component of the Customs Cargo Management Re-engineering project
    • a move to a new quarterly Survey of Superannuation, based on data collected by the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority
    • improvements to the accuracy of the monthly retail trade statistics while reducing the cost to the business community of providing data. A significant reduction in sample size, and hence provider load, for the Retail Business Survey was achieved by implementing a generalised regression estimation methodology with a new sample design utilising the Australian Taxation Office Business Activity Statement item ‘Total sales’. The application of the improvements led to an error in the statistics, and on finding this error, the ABS published the revised statistics as soon as practicable, together with the impact on Gross Domestic Product. An independent review was commissioned which identified several areas where the ABS could improve procedures and the ABS will implement the necessary changes
    • under the Business Statistics Innovation Program, the centralisation of all regular annual surveys in the New South Wales Office, to facilitate greater consistency of processes leading to more coherent data
    • development of the land parcel survey methodology, including trials in New South Wales and Queensland. Previously the ABS had conducted such surveys using the Australian Business Register.
    7 ACHIEVEMENT OF COST EFFECTIVE OUTPUTS

    Performance Measures

    7.1 Conduct efficiency reviews and audits, and implement their recommendations
    7.2 Test operating efficiencies of statistical activities by benchmarking internally and externally
    7.3 Market test a number of non-statistical activities to identify possible outsourcing opportunities
    7.4 Minimise provider load


The ABS regularly reviews its statistical and non-statistical activities to ensure that it is achieving cost effective outputs. A review of statistical activities in particular is one method of ensuring that business provider load is minimised.

7.1 Conduct efficiency reviews and audits, and implement their recommendations

Efficiency reviews and audits may be initiated by senior management and by the ABS Audit Committee to assess whether resources are being used effectively and efficiently to achieve the ABS’ objectives.

Major reviews addressing efficiency issues which commenced, or were completed, during 2004–05 include the following areas:
    • marketing services
    • Economic Statistics Data Centre
    • ABS pricing policy
    • Population Statistics Group organisation restructure.
The main outcomes of the above reviews were improvements to operations through more efficient use of the ABS staffing resource and of alternative data sources.

7.2 Test operating efficiencies of statistical activities by benchmarking internally and externally

Benchmarking is a key part of the ABS strategy to assess the value for money of its statistical and non-statistical outputs to understand and learn from best practice and to improve performance. The ABS views the process of benchmarking as an ongoing exercise, enabling the organisation to achieve continuous improvement across a variety of its outputs.

Benchmarking currently being undertaken within the ABS includes comparisons between ABS statistical collections; comparisons between the operations of other international statistical agencies and the ABS; and comparisons of corporate service functions between other Australian, state and territory government agencies and the ABS. These are outlined below.

COMPARISONS BETWEEN ABS STATISTICAL COLLECTIONS

The ABS has been developing and introducing an effort recording system into the Economic Statistics output during 2004–05. Already reports can be viewed that will allow point in time analysis of expenditure on individual project and the end-to-end framework.

COMPARISONS BETWEEN THE OPERATIONS OF A NUMBER OF INTERNATIONAL STATISTICAL AGENCIES AND THE ABS

The ABS continues to benchmark its functions and services against a range of international agencies. The ABS has found the most effective mechanism for benchmarking functions and services arises from bilateral discussions with particular agencies. Detailed comparisons of particular statistical or non-statistical work programs often result from such discussions, and following more detailed comparisons, the ABS reviews practices and methods as necessary with the aim of achieving the best outcomes and outputs possible from its resource allocation.

During 2004–05 the ABS jointly hosted the 55th Session of the International Statistical Institute. The conference proved to be an excellent opportunity for the international statistical community to congregate and exchange innovative ideas, forge new links, and discuss current trends and developments in the statistical world. Theme days covered statistics and finance, environmental statistics, and official statistics.

Bilateral discussions were conducted in 2004–05 with Statistics Canada. Topics included: the 2006 Census of Population and Housing; support for secondary data analysis; development of Internet based services for information dissemination; new developments in social statistics; health statistics; Indigenous people statistics; measures of social cohesion; measures of Australia’s progress; use of taxation data systems for official statistics; business respondent relations; collection infrastructure for household surveys; international relations; and more general organisational issues. The discussions proved very beneficial for senior staff of both agencies.

COMPARISONS OF CORPORATE SERVICES FUNCTIONS BETWEEN OTHER AUSTRALIAN, STATE AND TERRITORY GOVERNMENT AGENCIES

The ABS continues to participate in benchmarking studies with other Australian government agencies.

In 2004–05 the ABS reviewed the Audit Committee Charter and the Internal Audit Charter to reflect the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) Audit Committee best practice guidelines. Following discussions at the May 2005 Audit Committee meeting, a small number of changes to the Audit Committee Charter were proposed with new paragraphs on conflict of interest and induction. The Internal Audit Charter was rewritten, the majority of which was editorial rather than content.

7.3 Market test a number of non-statistical activities to identify possible outsourcing opportunities

Over the past few years the ABS has outsourced a number of key functions including:
    • printing and distribution services
    • a range of training courses relating to information technology
    • leadership and management training
    • internal audit
    • staff counselling services
    • legal advice
    • building maintenance
    • the supply and distribution of stationery.
There were no additional outsourcing opportunities identified in 2004–05, although major contracts were signed for the development and conduct of an Internet option for the 2006 Census of Population and Housing and for call centre services associated with the census.

7.4 Minimise provider load

In order to fulfil its mission of providing information to support discussion, debate and decision making, the ABS is required and empowered to collect information from businesses. At the same time the ABS is conscious that the needs of users for information must be balanced against the load placed on businesses providing that information.

Figure 1 shows the provider load (measured in thousands of hours taken to complete statistical forms) imposed on businesses by the ABS for 1995–96 through to 2004–05.

FIGURE 1: PROVIDER LOAD IMPOSED ON BUSINESSES BY THE ABS (hours ‘000)

Graph: Figure 1: Provider Load Imposed on Businesses by the ABS
(a) Defined as businesses with less than 20 employees or a derived estimate of employees of less than 20.
(b) Higher provider load estimates for 2001–02 reflect the conduct of the five-yearly Agricultural Census.


The ABS is committed to reducing the reporting load placed on businesses. This is consistent with government policy, and the recommendations of the Australian Government’s 1996 Small Business Deregulation Task Force. The task force found the ABS accounted for approximately 1 per cent of total business compliance costs, and since 1995-96 total ABS provider load on businesses has been substantially reduced. The average total load on all businesses for the past five years has been approximately 427,000 hours, or 34 per cent lower than for 1995–96. For small businesses, the average total load over the past five years has been approximately 180,000 hours, or 44 per cent lower than in 1995–96.

Throughout 2004–05 the ABS implemented the following initiatives to reduce the reporting load it placed on businesses:
    • introduction of changes to the Building Activity Survey which involved estimating the contribution to published estimates from smaller house renovations from their approval value, rather than by direct collection. This resulted in a reduction of 8 per cent in provider load
    • a move to a new quarterly Survey of Superannuation based on data collected by the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority
    • further standardisation of local government forms and collection methodology in cooperation with local government grants commissions and departments of local government.

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