Australian Bureau of Statistics

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why did I receive a survey form?
Statistics of building activity are key economic indicators and used in determining government economic and social policy, and by private industry in determining production plans and distribution arrangements for a wide range of commodities.

Every month all building approving authorities in Australia (mostly local government councils) provide us with details of newly approved building jobs. We then select a number of them for the Building Activity survey.

Q. Could I be selected in this survey every quarter?

Once a building job is selected in the Building Activity collection, it remains in the collection until it is completed.

New approvals have a chance of being selected in the survey in subsequent quarters.

Q. My building job is too small to make any difference to your figures - why can't you leave me out?

Your job represents a number of others of similar size and it is important that all size ranges are covered by the survey.

Q. Is it compulsory? What if I refuse to fill it in?

The ABS relies on the goodwill of individuals and businesses in Australia to provide accurate information as requested. The vast majority of builders (and other businesses) respond to our requests for information. However, the Census and Statistics Act 1905 provides the Australian Statistician with the power, if necessary, to direct you in writing to answer the questions.

Q. Isn't this an intrusion into my private business? Is confidentiality guaranteed?

The ABS recognises that much of the information we collect is private business. Consequently we place the highest emphasis on protecting the confidentiality of information. The Australian Statistician and his staff are bound by the Census and Statistics Act 1905 to observe the strictest confidence in regard to the information supplied by respondents. Building statistics will only be published in the form of aggregate data. Some very detailed statistics could relate to data of a single building job. If you are concerned that your job may be identifiable, please contact the ABS.

Q. Why don't you pay people to fill in ABS forms?

The ABS appreciates that considerable time and effort is required on the part of respondents to complete the form. As there is no provision under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 to pay respondents for their time, we rely on their cooperation. It is important that we get data from respondents quickly so that the resulting information can be used to produce estimates for Australia's National Accounts. We encourage respondents to contact us if they are encountering any difficulties in completing forms.

Q. How accurate do the figures need to be?

The ABS requires information that is as accurate as possible. The data supplied by your business is used to provide estimates for all building and construction activity in Australia. The more accurate the figures you supply, the more accurate the total estimate will be. However, if for some items accurate data is not readily available, careful estimates will be accepted.

Q. How good are your figures anyway? I know people who just put in any old rubbish.

We know that some respondents claim to fill in rubbish on their survey and census forms and possibly a few do. However, our processing system contains checks for consistency and validity and we are usually able to identify figures which are seriously incorrect. These checks suggest that most respondents do give the best figures that they can. Discussions with industry organisations indicate that respondents, who are now using statistics more in managing their own operations, see the need for accurate data and are supplying the ABS with accurate information.

Q. Can't the ABS collect this data from other sources.

The ABS is constantly evaluating other sources and improvements in collection methods in order to reduce the burden on the suppliers of data. However, there are presently no other effective sources of building and construction activity data.

Q. Who uses the data I supply and for what purpose?

The data from the building and construction collections are used by a wide range of planners, financial analysts, industry associations and media.

Q. I have already sent you the information requested.

If you believe you have already given the information requested by the ABS through a survey or other means, please telephone us and let us know. If you sent in a completed survey form by mail, you will need to provide your contact details, such as name and address, including the date the form was sent. If you have received a reminder notice about your form, you may have sent it in at the same time as your reminder notice was sent.

Thank you.

The ABS is grateful for the cooperation of respondents in returning their completed forms promptly to enable early processing and release of results from our building and construction collections. We look forward to your continued support.

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