1001.0 - Annual Report - ABS Annual Report, 2005-06  
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Contents >> Section 5 - Performance Information >> Chapter 11 - Assistance to producers of statistical services

Chapter 11 - Assistance to producers of statistical services

INTRODUCTION

As part of leading the national statistical service, the ABS aims to work in partnership with other organisations to expand and improve the quality and awareness of statistical services available.

The ABS' role in coordinating the operations of official bodies in the collection, compilation and dissemination of statistics is established in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975. Some aspects of this role, such as the Statistical Clearing House, have been in existence for many years. However, the focus on the National Statistical Service, as explored further in chapter 3 has led to the recent expansion of activities to support producers of statistics.

The ABS often directly assists producers of statistical services, as explained below, but other assistance is more general. For example, Information Development Plans are an important aspect of assistance as they involve identification of potential sources of information that may assist in meeting user needs.

NATIONAL DATA NETWORK

The National Data Network (NDN) is a national platform for acquiring, sharing and integrating data relevant to policy and research. It is being developed by the ABS on behalf of a consortium of Australian and state/territory government agencies, with the objective of achieving:

    • better use of information resources, while maintaining careful attention to privacy obligations and public trust
    • greater comparability/integratibility and quality of information resources by making available tools, services, methods and documentation
    • increased collaborative statistical research and development.
In 2005–06, the development of the NDN continued, including the development of metadata standards and integrating the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation's (CSIRO) data analysis software tool, Privacy Preserving Analytics, into the network.

The NDN is now in demonstration phase, the objectives of which are to:
    • identify the feasibility of developing a networked system utilising open source software
    • understand the cost of implementing and participating in the NDN
    • understand the issues associated with the sharing of information securely, and
    • identify the potential take-up of the NDN.
There are seven nodes functioning in the demonstration phase of the NDN:
    • the ABS, Queensland Office of Economic and Statistical Research, Telethon Institute of Child Health Research, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare are participating as Full Nodes
    • Tasmanian Department of Premier and Cabinet, NSW Department of Planning, Cystic Fibrosis Association of Australia are participating as Lite Nodes.
PARTNERSHIPS – FOR PRODUCTION OF STATISTICS

The ABS works with other agencies to expand and improve the quality of data available. At times this is in an advisory role; at others the ABS has a more active role. Following a description of some of the activities that are part of the ABS' wide-ranging partnerships with three key agencies, Table 11.1 lists a range of other projects that the ABS is involved in.

AUSTRALIAN TAXATION OFFICE (ATO)

The ABS works closely with the ATO, with the ABS' Business Register, used to select units for ABS business surveys, largely drawn from the ATO's Australian Business Register. The ABS has worked with the ATO on the introduction of ANZSIC 2006 into the ATO's systems. This included cooperation on several ABS/ATO groups, provision of training and other support. The ABS provided various coding and documentation tools related to ANZSIC. Also, a full-time ABS outposted officer is assisting the ATO to code existing Australian Business Register records to ANZSIC 2006.

The ABS accepted an invitation to join the ATO's Taxation Statistics Advisory Panel with the intention of improving the range of statistical outputs produced by the ATO.

The ABS is assisting the ATO to redevelop their application of confidentiality techniques in order to improve the efficiency of the production of the Annual Taxstats product.

AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF HEALTH AND WELFARE (AIHW)

The ABS works closely with the AIHW to develop statistics for a wide range of population groups and areas of social concern, with the aim of developing the range and quality of statistics, and promoting sound analysis. Areas of common interest include health, housing, community services, Indigenous Australians, older Australians and children and youth. The ABS/AIHW meet regularly to coordinate efforts. For example, the ABS/AIHW Indigenous Data Coordination Group enables the organisations to work together in relation to Indigenous Australian statistics.

In many fields the ABS works collaboratively with the AIHW on projects reporting to Ministerial Advisory Councils. A recent example is a joint project providing support and analysis for state/territory health survey data pooling projects, under health information committees reporting to the Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council.

The ABS also often provides input and comments into AIHW publications, sometimes working with AIHW on producing joint publications, such as The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2005 (ABS cat. no. 4704.0).

DEPARTMENT OF FAMILIES, COMMUNITY SERVICES, AND INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS (FaCSIA)

The ABS works closely with FaCSIA on a range of FaCSIA's key surveys, used in developing and evaluating policy.

LIVING IN AUSTRALIA STUDY (HOUSEHOLD INCOME AND LABOUR DYNAMICS IN AUSTRALIA – HILDA)

The ABS is a member of both the steering committee and technical committee for this longitudinal study, provides demographic benchmarks for the survey and also provided detailed methodological support through an outposted officer. This methodologist worked with the Melbourne Institute (the organisation contracted to conduct the survey) for 20 months, ending April 2006, and provided support in a range of areas, including imputation and validation.

GROWING UP IN AUSTRALIA STUDY (LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF AUSTRALIAN CHILDREN – LSAC)

The ABS is a member of the steering committee and provides technical advice through a range of the study's design teams. The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) is contracted by FaCSIA to conduct the study. ABS is contracted to undertake the testing and enumeration phases of Waves 2 to 4 of the study. This includes respondent management between waves and delivery of a clean input unit record file to AIFS from each wave of the study. The second wave is in the field until October 2006.

LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF INDIGENOUS CHILDREN – LSIC

The ABS has contributed to the development of the LSIC through its membership of the steering committee, and the design sub-committee. Since early 2006 ABS and FaCSIA have jointly worked to test strategies to identify a sample frame for pilot tests, with a strong emphasis on community engagement. The ABS conducted the first pilot test in June 2006 and expects to conduct a second in early 2007. Results from these tests will inform the future directions for the study.

TABLE 11.1: EXAMPLES OF PROJECTS WHERE THE ABS HAS ASSISTED ANOTHER ORGANISATION TO PRODUCE STATISTICS

Agency PartnerProject

Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA)The ABS cooperated extensively with APRA in establishing their new survey of superannuation funds, which replaced the ABS Survey of Superannuation. Assistance was provided to establish appropriate data quality measures and systems. The agencies are continuing to develop strong statistical links.

Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE)ABARE use information from the ABS' agricultural frame to collect information as part of their farm surveys program. The release of the lists is under clause 6 of the Statistics Determination. As a user of the agriculture frame, ABARE has been identified as a key external stakeholder and bilateral discussions are being held with them on an ongoing basis.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)The ABS has been working closely with the ACCC, as well as the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and the Australia Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), to reduce duplication of effort in reporting on Internet activity. This has included providing input to the ACCC on the steps required and the effort involved to run a complex collection, which has been incorporated into a major report on their future role in this area.

Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR)The Council of Australian Governments commissioned the ABS to conduct a skills shortages project. The objectives were to: review the methodology of DEWR' skill shortages survey; investigate the costs of producing reliable estimates of skills in demand by occupation at the national and state/territory level; and work with DEWR to determine whether it is possible to devise a common survey instrument for use by stakeholders to measure skill shortages in particular regions or industries. Further discussion with DEWR will take place as required.

NSW Premier's Department Through an outposting at NSW Premier's Department, the ABS is assisting in the implementation of the new Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification for Occupations (ANZSCO) in the NSW Public Sector Workforce Profile Collection, where occupation data are currently collected by three digit Australian Standard Classification of Occupations (ASCO). The outposted officer will assist in maintaining the relevance and accuracy of NSW public sector occupation data, which is increasingly important for workforce monitoring and planning purposes.

Agencies of the NSW GovernmentThe ABS undertook the Small Area Economic Statistics Project in response to an ongoing request by a number of key NSW Government agencies for small area data that would provide indicators of economic activity at a post code or Local Government Area levels. State government agencies require these statistics to assist them with their policy and planning processes. The project assessed the availability and quality of existing administrative data sources for use in Small Area Economic Statistics and then considered the feasibility of progressing with the development of small area economic statistics based on these assessments.

Victorian Department of Human ServicesThe ABS undertook a feasibility study for the Victorian Department of Human Services (DHS) on linking data for child health and wellbeing. The Office of Children within DHS commissioned the project recognising that the department has access to a range of datasets about children and needs to make better use of combining these to measure outcomes for children. This project involved looking at two datasets that have been identified as having large coverage of children in Victorian: the births data compiled by the Victorian Perinatal Data Collection Unit; and the School Entry Health Questionnaire. The feasibility study focused on undertaking quality assessments of these two data sources and examining the types of variables that might be used to match records between the two collections.

Victorian Department of InfrastructureThe ABS undertook a review of the methodology used in the Victorian Activity and Travel Survey conducted by the Department of Infrastructure.

Queensland Office of Economic and Statistical Research The ABS collaborated with the Queensland Office of Economic and Statistical Research to conduct a workshop for Indigenous Australian statistics. The aim of the workshop was to increase use of national standards and classifications and meet demand for better quality estimates.

Agencies of the South Australian GovernmentThe Statistics Program, South Australia (SPSA) continues between the SA ABS office and the South Australian Government. This program involves a group of ABS officers working together in one location, with staff from various state government departments, on a range of statistical projects of strategic value to the state. SPSA also provides a means for the enhancement of analytical skills of government employees.

Western Australia Department of the Attorney GeneralThe ABS provided assistance to the WA Department of the Attorney General in developing a strategic plan to produce comprehensive, quality and timely statistics to support planning and performance monitoring and research. Expected outcomes are improved availability of quality information in the Courts Division of the Department of the Attorney General, and improved decision making based on that information.

Tasmanian Department of Economic DevelopmentThe ABS outposted officers in the Tasmanian Department of Economic Development to help determine the best methodology for gathering and analysing information on people not in the workforce, and to the Tasmanian Department of Treasury and Finance to gain a better understanding of inter-state trade and to assist with a developing a methodology for collecting better data.


INFORMATION DEVELOPMENT PLANS

One of the ways the ABS achieves its objective of providing leadership of the national statistical service is by developing Information Development Plans (IDPs). The intention of an 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), and the additional data needed to jointly prepare a plan for producers to use to meet key user needs.

IDPs assist the ABS, in its national statistical service role, to develop coordinated and integrated plans that achieve the best possible outcomes for users in given fields of statistics. 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.

IDPs had previously been published for education and training (Measuring Learning in Australia – Plan to Improve the Quality, Coverage and Use of Education and Training Statistics (cat. no. 4231.0) – September 2004) and crime and justice (National Information Development Plan for Crime and Justice (cat. no. 4520.0) – June 2005).

Specific achievements during 2005–06 included:
    • release of Information Paper: Regional Research in Australia – the Statistical Dimension: an Information Development Plan for Rural and Regional Statistics (cat. no. 1362) in January 2006. The paper explores the broad themes of regional policy and brings these together into a definitional and information framework. Whilst it is anticipated that the development of statistics to inform some regional issues identified in this plan will have some long lead times, overall it is hoped that the availability of small area data and information on regional Australia generally will improve considerably as a result of the plan.
    • completing the first round of stakeholder workshops for the Ageing IDP. These workshops aimed to ascertain information priorities, data gaps and deficiencies. The first draft of the IDP will go to the National Ageing Statistics Unit Advisory Group before a second round of consultation begins. It is planned to finalise the IDP by the end of 2006.
    • undertaking two rounds of consultations as part of developing an IDP for children and youth. A wide range of data sources that currently exist have been identified. By highlighting the availability of data sources, users should be better able to find them. The information plan is scheduled to be released in September 2006.
    • establishing a steering committee to manage priorities following the release of the crime and justice IDP. Five priority development areas have been identified and a number of working groups, involving ABS and other agencies, have been set up to assist in developing new data sources in the areas of domestic and family violence, recidivism, small area crime statistics, substance abuse and mental health.
    • starting development of a data needs and priorities paper for cultural heritage and arts, as a precursor to an IDP for this area.
    • developing plans to draft an IDP for biotechnology statistics with funding from some key users.
    • releasing the first annual review of progress on the education and training IDP.
In addition to the above plans initiated by the ABS, the ABS has also been involved with the drafting of an Emergency Management Information Development Plan (EMIDP). This plan has been drafted and circulated for comment, and should be published in 2006–07. While not leading this project, the ABS has chaired the working group in charge of developing this document, and is represented on a number of committees to examine statistical needs and to provide advice on information management for the emergency sector. The ABS is also considering its role in these statistics, along with the roles of other information providers.

The ABS has been working with the ACT Government in the development of Agreed Statistical Priorities for the ACT Government: An Information Development Plan 2006–2010. This has included meetings of key ACT government staff and the placement of two ABS outposted officers to the Chief Minister's Department to progress the plan.

STATISTICAL CLEARING HOUSE

The Statistical Clearing House (SCH) was established in response to a recommendation in 1996 by the Small Business Deregulation Task Force. Their report recommended that a central clearance process be established for business surveys conducted by the Australian Government. The purpose of the process was to ensure that surveys are necessary, well designed and place minimum burden on business respondents. As such, all surveys that are directed to 50 or more businesses and that are conducted by or on behalf of any Australian Government agency (including the ABS), are subject to clearance by the Statistical Clearing House. In view of its statistical expertise and statutory coordination role, the ABS was empowered to administer the clearance process.

The SCH pays particular attention to eliminating duplication in business surveys, and ensures that surveys conducted follow good statistical methodologies and practices.

Table 11.2 presents the number of survey reviews at various stages of completion for 2005– 06. Throughout the year 118 reviews were completed, with all but two resulting in approval to proceed. SCH intervention has resulted in 73 instances of improved survey design and/or reduced provider load.

TABLE 11.2: STATISTICAL CLEARING HOUSE – STATUS OF REVIEWS FOR STATISTICAL COLLECTIONS, 2005–06

Completed
In Progress

ABS
29
3
Other
89
8
Total
118
11


The total annualised load for all surveys has reduced by 25% since the peak in 2002–03, in part due to a fall in the number of reviews referred to the SCH.

TABLE 11.3: STATISTICAL CLEARING HOUSE – COMPLETED REVIEWS OF STATISTICAL COLLECTIONS

Year
ABS
Other
Total

2001–02 2002–03
38 52
77 117
115 169
2003–04
33
87
120
2004–05
33
83
116
2005–06
29
89
118


The SCH' Australian Government Business Surveys Register (available on the Internet at http://www.nss.gov.au/nss/home.nsf/pages/About+SCH) provides access to information on collections that have already been conducted. It also includes information on survey design standards and best practices for organisations developing surveys. Metadata relating to 1,093 surveys are currently disseminated on the SCH web site.

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