FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS BY RESPONDENTS REGARDING ABS SERVICE INDUSTRIES STATISTICS COLLECTIONS
1. How did you get my company name and address?
Your company is listed on the ABS Business Register. This contains the names and addresses of all businesses that are registered with the Australian Tax Office.
2. How was I selected?
Your business was randomly selected from the ABS Business Register. ABS uses statistical techniques to select samples. This ensures that every business has a chance of selection. The sample design is technically called 'stratified random sampling'. The survey collects data from a sample randomly selected to represent the wider economy. Your business is representative of other businesses within the same industry. By using sampling, the ABS attempts to lessen the burden on the business community by collecting the minimum data required to produce high quality and accurate statistics.
3. What does the ABS do?
The role of the ABS is to provide a national statistical service to both government and the community. Our Mission states that this service should be high quality, objective and responsive. Some of the main surveys we collect include the Census, unemployment rates, and the Consumer Price Index. The ABS provides a large and comprehensive national statistical service, releasing over 1500 publications each year. We try to ensure that our services reach the community in a range of formats, most recently through our Web Site.
4. My business is too small to make any difference to your figures - why can't you leave me out?
Your business represents a number of others of similar size and it is important that all size ranges are covered by the survey.
5. I do not think that I am in scope for your survey.
Occasionally businesses are classified to the wrong industry class on our records. If you believe this is the case, please contact us to discuss the situation. Contact information for provider assistance can be found on our provider help page.
6. 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 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.
7. 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 providers. Under no circumstances whatsoever may any other government department, organisation or individual gain access to the information you supply to the ABS, unless you give your written consent. The Act provides for penalties of up to $5,000 or two years in jail, or both, against officers who breach this rule. Information collated from the survey forms can only be obtained in an aggregate form where no individual's data can be identified.
8. I already get many ABS forms. Why should I have to do this one too?
The sampling methods used by the ABS try to ensure that smaller businesses are not selected in more than one survey (minimum overlap policy). Unfortunately, in some cases a business will be required to complete more than one survey. As your company is representative of other businesses in the same industry your response is important.
9. Why don't you pay people to fill in your forms and why can't we have more time to fill them in?
The ABS appreciates that considerable time and effort is required on the part of providers to complete the form. As there is no provision under the Census and Statistics Act 1905 to pay providers for their time, we rely on their cooperation. It is important that we get data from providers quickly so that the resulting information can be released as soon as possible after the period to which it relates. If you are unable to supply us with certain figures because they will not be available for some weeks, you may ask for an extension of time. We also encourage providers to contact us if they need any help in completing the survey form.
10. Can I have more time to complete the form?
We are willing to grant extensions of time where possible. An ABS officer will be happy to discuss your request.
11. I am small business and I don't have the time?
The survey has been designed so that most of the information should be available from your business records. If accurate data is not available we will accept careful estimates.
12. I am a small business and never have some of the items you're asking for. Should I be in the survey?
Because you are selected as part of a sample survey, your data represents data for other businesses in the same industry. Low values are just as valid as very large values. There are many other businesses in the survey with low or no value for an item and it is important to know this. If we left these businesses out of the survey we could easily overestimate the level of these items in Australia.
13. Do you care about the workload we have?
ABS is conscious of the workload placed on the business community. Over recent years the ABS has responded to government initiatives and has conducted reviews into reporting load. ABS has achieved significant reductions in reporting load through review of statistical methods, changes to form design, statistical procedures, integration of collections and data management strategies. Further work continues on data collection and sampling methodologies and statistical coordination. The ABS is also using data from administrative sources to decrease the burden on respondents.
14. 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 the businesses in the industry operating 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.
15. How good are your figures anyway? I know people who just put in any old rubbish.
We know that some businesses claim to fill in rubbish on their survey and forms and possibly a few do. However, our processing systems contain checks for consistency and validity and we are usually able to identify figures which are seriously incorrect. These checks suggest that most businesses do give the best figures that they can. Discussions with industry organisations indicate that businesses, who are now using statistics more in managing their operations, see the need for accurate data and are supplying the ABS with accurate information.
16. Who uses the data I supply and for what purpose?
The statistics produced from the information supplied by providers are used by the ABS internally in compiling national accounts figures and other data, and by external agencies, both government and private, for research and other general purposes. For more information please see our Users of Service Industry Statistics page.
17. Why wasn't there a question on........?
The questions on the survey forms are determined through a consultative process involving major users of ABS service industry statistics, such as Commonwealth and State Government Departments and Industry Associations. Each year we ask a number of people from the services sectors to test proposed questions for collections to make sure that they can be readily understood and easily completed. In addition to this testing, we rely on information given to us through your comments on the back of the forms. We encourage and value your contributions and make use of them where we can.
18. 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 contact us and let us know. If you gave figures over the telephone, please let us know the date you supplied the figures and the name of the contact officer you supplied them to (if known). If you sent in a completed survey form by mail, you will need to give 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 issued. Contact information for provider assistance can be found on our provider help page.
The ABS is grateful for the cooperation of businesses in returning their completed forms promptly to enable early processing and release of results from our collections. We look forward to your continued support.
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This page first published 17 September 2002, last updated 18 February 2010