Australian Statistician’s Review
The ABS plays a key role in Australian society, providing a portfolio of trusted statistics that are critical to informing effective decision making and supporting public debate. During 2013–14 the ABS continued to provide high quality, objective statistics on key aspects of our population, society, economy, and the environment. In January this year we said farewell to the 14th Australian Statistician, Brian Pink, who retired after leading the ABS for seven years. In his parting message to staff Brian talked of the continuing tight fiscal situation for the ABS, and his confidence that initiatives like the ABS’s organisational transformation program (known as ‘ABS 2017’) and the digital Census in 2016 will position Australia’s national statistical agency well for the future. There is a special article looking at Brian’s career with the ABS in Chapter 3 (pages 17–19).
Budget constraints have necessitated some changes to our program. To better inform the changes to the work program, we held discussions with key Australian government agencies and other stakeholders to ensure our resources are applied to deliver maximum benefit through a well-balanced program. While the revised forward work program retains core statistical elements and outputs, we have had to discontinue or reduce outputs in areas that are valued by the users. These program changes will take effect in 2014–15.
Unfortunately, this year also saw the arrest of an ABS staff member by the Australian Federal Police for allegedly leaking statistics that were under embargo. The staff member, whose employment was terminated in May 2014, has been charged with a range of offences under the Criminal Code Act 1995 and the Corporations Act 2001. This is the first time
in our history of more than 100 years that a staff member has been arrested for allegedly leaking statistics. As a result of this incident the ABS commissioned an independent expert to conduct a review to assess the ABS’s system of controls relating to the unauthorised disclosure of market sensitive information. The review, conducted by a former Deputy Chair of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Belinda Gibson, involved an assessment of current controls, interviews with ABS staff, and benchmarking of ABS against a number of Australian and international organisations. The review found that the
ABS operates with a coherent scheme of controls to protect against unauthorised disclosure, which is broadly consistent with other similar government agencies. The report included recommendations to help strengthen our controls and we are in the process of implementing all of these recommendations.
The age, fragility, and inflexibility of our systems continues to be a concern. We need to update and transform our business processes if we are to continue to provide timely, relevant and accessible statistics and services in an increasingly complex and connected digital world. Fortunately, we received additional funds to develop a robust business case for a major transformation program. This work has gone very well and I am confident that we will put a strong case for further investment to government in the next financial year. Our work on the investment proposal has been complemented and informed by the efforts of our ABS 2017 Business Transformation Program which has further developed key standards, architectural frameworks, prototypes and system components.
Transforming ABS interactions for the 21st century
The ABS has continued to invest in transforming the way we interact with providers to make it easier for businesses and people to respond to our surveys. In 2013–14 the ABS developed and implemented e-forms to enable a streamlined process for business and household surveys. The response to business e-forms has consistently exceeded the take-up target of 85% and the Monthly Population Survey (MPS) e-form uptake, at about 20%, is already above target. We also finished measuring the statistical impact from introducing e-forms to the MPS in 2013–14. Further information is available in a special article on e-forms in Chapter 3 (pages 28–30).
Improving data quality and reducing direct collection burden
The ABS has been working with existing data providers—such as Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages—to improve data quality. The ABS has also been engaging with public sector initiatives, such as Open Government, to improve data access. ABS has been working to secure ongoing ABS access to existing data for statistical and research purposes, including collaborating with data custodians such as the Departments of Social Services and Health to access new and significant administrative holdings to deliver rich, modern and relevant statistical solutions. Significant progress has been made on the acquisition of key education datasets such as National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy (NaPLAN) data; Vocational Education and Training (VET) data; and the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI) for data integration projects, as well as on the future acquisition of unit record level school student enrolment data for the National Schools Statistics Collection.
Data by Region
The first release of the Data by Region application on the ABS website in June provided ease of access to ABS statistics on a particular geographical region. From the ABS website you can choose a region in Australia and find data for that region, either through browse, search or a map interface. Data from the National Regional Profile are available on topics including population, births, average income levels, number of businesses, number of motor vehicles, land use and much more. Data by Region provides an efficient single interface for users to find and use geocoded (ASGS to SA2 and LGA) data published by the ABS.
Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset
The Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset (ACLD) brings together data from the 2006 Census with data from the 2011 and future Censuses to build a picture of changes in society. The first issue of the ACLD is based on a sample of about 1 million people from the 2006 Census, which has been combined with records from the 2011 Census using data linkage techniques without name and address. The dataset will continue to grow with new information added each Census, and sample augmentation to account for births, deaths and migration. The ACLD will enable governments and researchers to better understand how social and economic conditions change over time, as well as providing insight into how pathways vary for different population groups.
Australian Census and Migrants Integrated Dataset
The Australian Census and Migrants Integrated Dataset was created by integrating data from the 2011 Census and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) Settlement Data Base (SDB) of the 1.3 million people who migrated to Australia under a permanent Skilled, Family or Humanitarian stream visa and arrived in Australia between 1 January 2000 and 9 August 2011. This dataset will allow government agencies and researchers to analyse migrant census data by visa class.
Census Run That Town ios app
In 2013 the ABS Census program created Run That Town—an interactive game that uses 2011 Census data. Run That Town puts the player in charge of any Australian
neighbourhood and challenges them to make popular planning decisions based on 2011 Census data. Run That Town won the Government 2.0 category in the Australian Government’s Excellence in eGovernment Awards in May 2014.
The Government 2.0 category recognises outstanding practice by an individual in the use and impact of digital tools and social media. This is based on how well an initiative demonstrates the principles and effectiveness of Government 2.0, including better engagement with citizens, open and transparent government operations, and/or release of public sector information.
Run That Town was judged to be ‘an incredibly innovative project that uses game technology to achieve government objectives in an engaging and effective way’. The game personalises the player’s experience with customised content and data from the 2011 Census, which players use to make planning decisions about a postal area in Australia that they control. While the aim of the game is to boost popularity, grow the town and keep the locals happy, players also discover the true value of Census data for themselves.
In addition to this award, Run That Town has been formally recognised in a number of other prestigious Australian and international award programs, highlighting the ABS’s success in raising awareness of the Census and taking innovative digital approaches to dissemination, communication and engagement.
Providing leadership and services to maximise the use of government data
State Statistical Forum
The ABS has continued to strengthen strategic engagement with state and territory governments, notably by working more effectively with the State Statistical Forum (SSF). The SSF has continued to mature with a view to achieving stronger collaboration across jurisdictions, and between the jurisdictions and the ABS. Over the past year, the ABS has provided support for the development of jurisdictionally-led work on a set of priority statistical themes, particularly relating to Statistical Data Integration, Statistical Capability Development and Measuring Disadvantage.
Cross Portfolio Statistical Data Integration Oversight Board
The Cross Portfolio Statistical Data Integration Oversight Board (the Board), chaired by the Australian Statistician, oversees the development of a safe and effective cross-government environment for data integration involving Commonwealth data. During 2013–14 the Board made an initial determination of the scope of the arrangements for data integration involving Commonwealth data for statistical and research purposes, and began a process to resolve the remaining issues around scope by early 2015. The risk framework, used to determine the pre- and post-mitigation risk levels of data integration projects, was also finalised.
Statistical Spatial Framework
The ABS is responding to the challenge of better integrating statistical and geospatial information by developing the Statistical Spatial Framework. ABS published material about this framework, which will provide a common approach to connecting people- centric (socio-economic) information to a location, on the National Statistical Service (NSS) website during 2013–14. There is considerable domestic and international interest in the Statistical Spatial Framework, and engagement and communication activities are integral to its adoption. The first meeting of the United Nations Expert Group was convened in November 2013. The ABS was invited to speak on this topic at the August 2013 World Statistics conference in Hong Kong.
National Statistics Policy
The ABS is developing a National Statistics Policy to improve the overall functionality and utility of the national statistical system, by ensuring statistical activities are effectively coordinated, and to provide goals for the system. During 2013–14 a Reference Group comprising members from across governments and a National Statistics Policy work group were established to develop a National Statistics Policy and discuss various governance options. The draft policy was discussed by the Australian Statistics Advisory Council in June 2014 and the aim is to finalise the policy in 2014–15.
Building strong statistical capability and capacity internationally, particularly within Asia and the Pacific Region
The ABS has continued to take a strong lead role in statistical capability development in Asia and the Pacific region. Regional development programs include Indonesia, Timor- Leste, Myanmar, Seychelles, and a regional Pacific program covering 14 countries. The ABS has made a significant contribution, through missions and technical assistance, to the compilation of the Timor-Leste Consumer Price Index (CPI) and capability development of the National Statistical Office (NSO) staff and to the development of Indonesia’s producer price indexes. The ABS provided a significant level of support for international statistical agencies including: Seychelles, Timor Leste, Indonesia, Pacific Islands, South Korea and China. The ABS also sent two missions to Myanmar to help with their upcoming Census—the first in the country for 30 years. In a visit to Myanmar in late 2013, ABS staff: reviewed and rewrote the field procedure manual; established a training methodology; and created the structure, content and associated materials for two separate modular training packages. In the February 2014 visit, ABS staff delivered training to selected Myanmar staff so they could train other Myanmar staff. ABS is also a member of the International Technical Advisory Board which provided strategies and advice to Myanmar on the implementation of the Census.
The ABS provided support for regional improvements in Civil Registrations and Vital Statistics (CRVS) through roles with the Regional Steering Group for CRVS in Asia and the Pacific and the Brisbane Accord Group (a partnership of government, aid agencies and research institutions). In 2013-14, the ABS helped to achieve several key outcomes identified within the Pacific Vital Statistics Action Plan (PVSAP) including commencing development of the next iteration of the plan and engaging with key stakeholders to secure ongoing funding for the plan’s implementation; undertaking comprehensive assessments of CRVS systems with officers from National Statistical Offices, Health departments and Civil Registries in the Solomon Islands and Kiribati; and building statistical capability by conducting a data analysis and report writing workshop for Pacific Statisticians and Health agency staff, focusing on the compilation and presentation of vital statistics. Further information on the ABS’s international engagement can be found in Chapter 7.
As always, my thanks go to all the Australian households and businesses that have participated in our surveys over the past year. Your support is crucial to our success in maintaining the breadth and high quality of our statistics.
I also extend my thanks to the members of the Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC) who continue to provide expert advice to me on the strategies and work program of the ABS.
In addition, I would like to acknowledge the support of the Hon. Steven Ciobo MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer and Federal Member for Moncrieff. His support and representation has ensured the ABS continues to be an independent producer of relevant and high-quality statistics for all Australians.
Finally, I want to particularly acknowledge my management, office staff and interviewers for their hard work and dedication during the past financial year.