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Principal legislation determining the functions and responsibilities of the ABS are the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 and the Census and Statistics Act 1905.
The functions of the ABS are defined in section 6 of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 as follows:
'(a) to constitute the central statistical authority for the Australian Government and, by arrangements with the governments of the states, provide statistical services for those Governments;
(b) to collect, compile, analyse and disseminate statistics and related information;
(c) to ensure coordination of the operations of official bodies in the collection, compilation and dissemination of statistics and related information, with particular regard to:
(ii) the attainment of compatibility between, and the integration of, statistics compiled by official bodies; and
(iii) the maximum possible utilisation, for statistical purposes, of information, and means of collection of information, available to official bodies;
(e) to provide advice and assistance to official bodies in relation to statistics; and
(f) to provide liaison between Australia, on the one hand, and other countries and international organisations, on the other hand, in relation to statistical matters.'
The Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 also established the Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC). Subsection 18(1) of the Act specifies that the functions of the Council are to advise the Minister and the Australian Statistician in relation to:
'(a) the improvement, extension and coordination of statistical services provided for public purposes in Australia;
(b) annual and longer term priorities and programs of work that should be adopted in relation to major aspects of the provision of those statistical services; and
(c) any other matters relating generally to those statistical services.'
All state and territory governments are represented on ASAC, and the remaining Council members are drawn from a wide variety of organisations and interests.
The Census and Statistics Act 1905 provides the Australian Statistician with the authority to conduct statistical collections, including the Census of Population and Housing and, when necessary, to direct a person to provide statistical information. Information on notices of direction and prosecutions which follow from them is shown in Appendix 15. The Census and Statistics Act 1905 requires the ABS to publish and disseminate compilations and analyses of statistical information and to maintain the secrecy of information collected under the Act.
The Statistics Determination made by the Minister under section 13 of the Census and Statistics Act 1905 enables the Statistician to disclose certain classes of information. Lists of names and addresses disclosed under clause 6 of the Statistics Determination are tabled in parliament and are shown in Appendix 13. Details of disclosures of unidentified information under clause 7 of the Statistics Determination are shown in Appendix 14.