1002.0 - Australian Statistics Advisory Council - Annual Report, 2015-2016  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 13/10/2016   
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FOREWORD

The role of ASAC is to provide guidance to the Minister and the Australian Statistician on the directions of, and priorities for, official statistics. This includes addressing the priority to maintain and enhance the quality of official statistics, as well as the improvement, extension and coordination of statistical services provided for public purposes in Australia.

The Council met in November 2015, March 2016 and June 2016, with discussions covering a broad range of topics including the:

  • ABS’ strategic work program priorities for 2016-17 onward – including the ‘digital first’ 2016 Census and the Statistical Business Transformation Program
  • Operations and role of ASAC and its membership
  • Delivering on the ABS’ broader organisational transformation agenda
  • Challenges and opportunities to modernise Australia’s statistical system.

In June, the Council participated in a Blue Sky Workshop titled Over the horizon: Digital disruption, megatrends and the future of official statistics. The workshop included invited guests from government, academia and the private sector to discuss issues that may impact the future of information and the production and use of data 20 years into the future, and beyond.

ASAC has taken a keen interest in a number of new Government initiatives aimed at expanding data use and availability. These include:
  • The Australian Government Public Sector Data Management report which has delivered a valuable roadmap on ways to maximise the potential use of data to achieve efficiencies in government. ASAC recognises and supports the ABS’ unique position to contribute its expertise in this area via secure data integration and access to microdata. Through partnerships within Australia’s statistical system, the ABS and others are seeking to maximise these opportunities, including exploring opportunities to use private sector data for official statistics.
  • The Productivity Commission Inquiry into Data Availability and Use. With a view to developing new policies to increase availability and use of data to encourage innovation and build efficient services, ASAC provided a submission to the Inquiry outlining key issues and providing recommendations.

Whilst these initiatives are encouraging, there is still a need for a coordinated approach to public sector data management. Changes to data availability and sharing must extend to all users and data custodians within the statistical system, including state and territory governments. Failure to do so risks missing opportunities for a richer, more informed and higher quality statistical system. The value of partnerships and collaboration has become integral to successful initiatives in open data and data integration across the statistical system. However, even these partnerships need oversight to avoid duplication of effort; open up siloed initiatives; and to minimise reporting burden on Australia’s people and businesses.

The Council has been pleased to see progress by the ABS on its organisational transformation agenda. ASAC has provided feedback on the ABS’ engagement strategy and the improvements with stakeholder relationships. It has also provided comment on ABS strategies to minimise statistical risk to ensure high quality, coherent and fit for purpose official economic, population, social and environmental statistics.

The ABS’ new approaches to its statistical business, including data integration and the digital Census, have been welcomed by ASAC. The Council acknowledges the ABS’ achievements to date and remains confident that the transformation will ensure the ABS is better positioned to meet the information needs of today’s economy and changing society.


MEMBERSHIP

It has been another busy year for the Council. I would like to thank Council members for their dedication and counsel concerning Australia’s statistics. I would like to acknowledge and thank the Hon Alex Hawke MP, for his support of the ABS and his interest in the Council as the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, particularly his support for a digital Census. I would also like to acknowledge and thank the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP for her early recognition of the need to bring improvements to the Australian statistical system and her support of the ABS as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer.

The Council has seen a number of changes to its membership this year with the terms of Dr James Moody, Dr David Johnson, Mr Bruce Michael, Mr Michael Court, Mr Antony Skinner, Mr Matthew Quillinan, Mr Anhi Vong and Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver AM ending.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank departing members for their contributions to the work of the Council. The work Council members undertake to support the activities of the ABS, and further the development of the Australian statistical system, is highly valued.

In particular, I’d like to acknowledge the contributions of long-term members: Dr James Moody who served on the Council for 11 years and Dr David Johnson who served for 5 years; their ongoing commitment to the Council over many years has been greatly appreciated.

I would also like to welcome Mr Nigel Ray, Mr Kurt Sibma, Dr Luci Ellis, Mr Stephen Walters, Professor Deborah Cobb-Clark, Ms Lisa Gropp, Professor Judith Sloan, Mr Mark Johnstone and Mr Craig Graham who formally joined the Council in the past year, and Mr Chris McGowan who was renominated; their combined experience and expertise will add many benefits to the Council.

I convey my appreciation to the ABS staff members who provide secretariat services to the Council, arranging our meetings each year and administering ASAC memberships.

After 10 years, I will be retiring from the position of ASAC Chair in 2017. I wish ASAC, and all participants in the Australian statistical system, well in future. Throughout my tenure, ASAC has been concerned that resource constraints have caused a slow erosion of capacity within the ABS. Whilst pleased to note Government’s contribution of significant funds towards the ABS’ transformation, ASAC continues to express concern about the suboptimal use of resources across the statistical system. Better use of resources across all governments can be achieved through more effective national statistical collaboration.

During my remaining tenure as ASAC Chair, I look forward to continuing to work with the Council, the Minister for Small Business, the Australian Statistician, State and Territory Governments and other key stakeholders in Australia’s statistical system to build a richer portfolio of official statistics for Australia.

This report will be available on the Council website (asac.gov.au), which also contains information about the Council, including meetings, functions and membership.

Geoff Allen AM
Chair