This report marks my first as a member and Chairperson of the Australian Statistics Advisory Council. I would like to thank continuing Council members, the Australian Statistician and the staff of the ABS for the warm welcome they have extended to me and to other new members of Council.
I would also like to acknowledge and thank my predecessor, John MacLeod, for his 18 years of distinguished service as a member of Council, and in particular his last five years as Chairperson. In recognition of John’s contribution there is a short article in this Annual Report reflecting on his considerable achievements. As one of Council’s longest serving members his input will be missed.
As a keen user of statistics, I am well aware that the demand for statistics is insatiable whereas the resources of the ABS are finite. It is in this context that the role of Council in advising the Statistician and the Minister on key priorities is critical. It is also within this context that the ABS’ development of the concept of a National Statistical Service becomes increasingly important as it seeks to minimize overlap in the statistical collection activity of agencies and maximize the utility of the available data.
Since taking up my appointment in March, I have been impressed by the professionalism of the ABS and the breadth of the work program. The conduct of the 2001 Census and the subsequent release of first results 11 months later is clear testimony to the capacity of the organisation. However, like all statistical agencies, the ABS is confronted by a number of challenges. Some of these are discussed in chapter 3 of this report.
During 2001-02 there has been considerable progress by the ABS in addressing the key priorities identified by Council over time and these are reported in chapter 1. At the same time, Council has identified a range of emerging and continuing issues that it believes the ABS needs to focus on in the future. These are detailed in chapter 2. Key issues identified by Council include rural and regional statistics, social capital, information on the ageing population, distribution of wealth and relevant labour market statistics.
I look forward to working with the Council, the ABS and the Minister to secure the provision of an effective and responsive national statistical service.
Professor Sandra Harding