Some of the key statistical and organisational issues and outcomes for the ABS during the year include:
Dennis Trewin, Australian Statistician
2003-04 has been a successful year for the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in terms of extending the range and the quality of information made available to government and the community to assist informed decision making. However, the year has also been notable for some controversy regarding ABS population estimates, particularly as they relate to the Northern Territory. This issue is commented on more fully later in this report. Finally, it has been a year where the ABS has been under some resource pressure, as highlighted in the financial summary.
- the release of Measures of Australia's Progress, 2004 (cat. no. 1370.0) which provides a selection of statistical indicators allowing Australians to make their own assessment of whether life in Australia is improving
- the significant contribution of the ABS to Australian life being recognised by the Bulletin magazine through Dennis Trewin winning the society category in its Smart 100 Awards for the development and publication of Measuring Australia's Progress
- completion of a program of extensive community consultation on the proposed topics for inclusion in the 2006 census
- the formal launch of the Remote Access Data Laboratory, an online database query system that enables users to run statistical queries on ABS Confidentialised Unit Record Files via a secure web site link
- the release, on the ABS web site, of National Regional Profile (cat. no. 1379.0.55.001) which provides, in a standard format, a wide range of data at the local government area level
- the development and publication of a conceptual framework for measuring social capital: Information Paper: Measuring Social Capital - An Australian Framework and Indicators (cat. no. 1378.0)
- release, as part of the ABS Australian Census Analytic Program, of a series of publications from the 2001 census looking at different aspects of Australian society
- successful completion of the 2003 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers and publication of preliminary results in Disability, Australia (cat. no. 4446.0)
- release of results from the 2002 General Social Survey and 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey
- the finalisation of a revised Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification
- the development and conduct of an Innovation Survey in respect of 2003, with financial support from the Department of Education, Science and Training and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources
- the initial release of quarterly government finance statistics on an accrual accounting basis in Government Finance Statistics, Australia, Quarterly, Electronic Delivery (cat. no. 5519.0.55.001)
- a range of activities relating to the environmental issue of water use including the conduct of a survey of water use by farmers and the release of Water Account, Australia (cat. no. 4610.0)
- the development of a set of experimental spatial price indexes designed to measure price levels between the state/territory capital cities
- further enhancements and improvements to the accessibility and useability of the ABS web site
- the creation of a National Statistics Training Institute aimed at providing a strategic and comprehensive approach to statistical training in the ABS, and eventually to statistical staff in other agencies
- the introduction of Computer Assisted Interviewing for the Monthly Population Survey
- successful negotiation with population survey interviewers of a new certified agreement, the Population Survey Interviewers Certified Agreement 2003-2005
- signing of agreements with the Indonesian and Mongolian national statistical agencies in relation to technical cooperation
These and other developments are expanded upon further below.
- a continued and significant contribution to international statistics, and extensive technical assistance to a number of statistical agencies in the Asia-Pacific region.
The past year has been particularly difficult in regard to the ABS' financial position. For the first time the ABS experienced an operating deficit. This is largely because we underestimated the increase in our long service leave liabilities. This did not affect our short term cash position which remains healthy. Nevertheless the ABS has been working to a tight budget with constraints on recruitment being in place for much of the year. The ongoing professionalism and dedication of all ABS staff which has led to such successful outcomes during 2003-04, including an increase in our statistical outputs, is greatly appreciated.
During the year Mr Rob Edwards, Deputy Australian Statistician, Economic Statistics Group, left the ABS to take up the position of Director of the International Monetary Fund's Statistics Department. Rob made a very significant contribution to the ABS over a career spanning 35 years. His efforts were recognised in the 2004 Australia Day Honours when he was awarded the Public Service Medal for 'Outstanding public service in the development of macroeconomics and contribution to international statistical standards'.
Much of the ABS' work would not be possible without the continuing cooperation of businesses, households and others who provide the data which form the basis of the statistics produced. The ABS makes a considerable effort in ensuring that we have the trust and confidence of our data providers without which the provision of a quality statistical service would be jeopardised. In spite of some adverse and misleading television coverage of ABS household survey procedures last December, it is pleasing to note that there has been no reduction in cooperation from our data providers. The ABS would once again like to convey its genuine thanks to all businesses and households that assist us in our task by providing the data we need so as to deliver a quality statistical service to policy-makers, researchers, analysts and the community at large.