1001.0 - Annual Report - ABS Annual Report, 2005-06  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/10/2006   
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Contents >> Section 5 - Performance Information >> Chapter 16 - International engagement

Chapter 16 - International engagement


One of the functions included in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 is for the ABS 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 ABS continued its valued role during 2005–06 in the international statistical community through an active contribution to the international statistical activities that are important to Australia and our region, including:

    • active and often high level membership of the international statistical community (including influencing the development of international statistical standards and indicators)
    • targeted and tailored technical assistance to national statistical agencies in the Asia-Pacific region.

The ABS' involvement in the international statistical community takes a number of forms, including participating in international meetings, visiting the statistical offices of other national statistical organisations and international intergovernmental organisations, and hosting visits from staff in these organisations. This involvement provides fruitful interchange with counterparts in statistical and international organisations. In many cases, these discussions related to the development of international standards, frameworks and methodologies (see below for examples of these).

The ABS participated in a number of important international meetings and conferences in 2005–06, which included the:
    • 37th Session of the United Nations Statistics Division – Statistical Commission, held in New York
    • 3rd Meeting of the Advisory Expert Group on National Accounts – United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), held in Bangkok
    • United Nations Expert Group Meeting on 2010 World Program on Population and Housing Censuses, held in New York
    • 14th Conference of Commonwealth Statisticians where the underlying theme was "Millennium +5: Managing Statistics for More Equitable Societies", held in Cape Town
    • 54th Plenary Session, United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, held in Paris.
Another important initiative that the ABS was involved with was the development of International Principles for Confidentiality and Access to Microdata. The Conference of European Statisticians (CES) established a working group, chaired by the Australian Statistician, to investigate current practices and the feasibility of international guidelines for access to microdata. The CES recognises the growing desire for improved access to microdata amongst researchers and that national statistical offices have been grappling with how to extend access while maintaining respondent confidentiality.

The working group has produced a publication titled Interim Guidelines: Managing Statistical Confidentiality and Microdata Access – Principles and Guidelines of Good Practice. The guidelines aim to foster greater uniformity of approach by countries, while facilitating better access to microdata by the research community and, through the guidelines and supporting materials, enabling countries to improve their arrangements for providing access to microdata. The June meeting of the CES in Paris cleared the guidelines for release, subject to some minor amendments.

ABS senior executive hold prominent positions on a number of international groups. In 2005–06, these included:
    • Mr Dennis Trewin, Australian Statistician
        • Chair of the International Comparison Program Global Executive Board, World Bank
        • Chair of the Conference of European Statisticians Task Force on Confidentiality and Microdata
        • Moderator of the United Nations 'Friends of the Chair' group for the Millennium Development Goal Indicators (see below)
        • Member of the Advisory Board of the Marrakesh Action Plan for Statistics
    • Mr Peter Harper, Deputy Australian Statistician, Economic Statistics Group
        • Chair of Canberra Group II on the Measurement of Non-financial Assets
        • Member of the Advisory Expert Group for the 1993 System of National Accounts Update
        • Member of the Regional Advisory Board for the Asia-Pacific International Comparison Project
    • Ms Susan Linacre, Deputy Australian Statistician, Population Statistics Group
        • Council member of the International Statistical Institute
        • Chair of Working Group 1: Standards and Frameworks and a Core Set of Outputs, United Nations Expert Group on Population and Housing Censuses.

The ABS received a number of visits from other national statistics offices, statistical agencies and international statistical organisations during the year including Bangladesh, Canada, China, Fiji, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Namibia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Qatar, Singapore, Republic of Korea, Thailand, Tonga, United Kingdom, United States of America, Vanuatu, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

The duration and purpose of these visits vary, but all act to build stronger relationships with like organisations with which we share knowledge and know-how. For example, discussions on data warehousing and dissemination were held with representative from the Thai National Statistical office and the Central Bank of Thailand. These discussions represented the culmination of previous assistance missions and effectively concluded this work by reviewing progress made in Thailand and determining the best ways in which ABS could continue to support efforts in Thailand in a low-key way.

In 2005–06, the ABS' relationship with the Republic of Korea continued to develop. Since 2004, the ABS has had a member of the Korean National Statistical Office (KNSO) on secondment in Australia and the ABS sent a short term (3 month) visitor to the KNSO. In association with the KNSO seconded officer, a number of visits from Korean officials, from various ministries, have taken place this year. Topics discussed include education statistics, vitals and health statistics, census, and environment and agriculture statistics.


Australia collaborates on international developments such as standards setting for key statistics. It supports sound methodological approaches to the development of standards and helps ensure that such standards and statistical developments reflect the Australian user interests and aid international comparability where that is meaningful. User interest in these types of studies is growing strongly.

The ABS has contributed to the development of key international standards, frameworks and methodologies by:
    • contributing as a member of expert groups for the reviews of the System of National Accounts (the international standard for national accounts statistics, released in 1993) and the Balance of Payments Manual 5th edition (also most recently released in 1993) – as many of the matters to be considered are relevant to both frameworks, they are being updated in parallel
    • contributing as a member of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Environmental-Economic Accounting
    • contributing to the development of the United Nation's Central Product Classification (CPC V.2) and the International Standard Industrial Classification (Rev.4) – the latter is in line with the redevelopment of ANZSIC, previously discussed in chapters 4 and 7
    • contributing through membership of the expert group for updating the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO), and through the secondment of a senior statistician to the International Labour Organisation for this review
    • joining international groups developing standards for measuring health and disability, coordinated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the World Health Organisation and Eurostat
    • participating at the fourth global conference on monitoring risk factor behaviours in the population
    • joining the International Group for Indigenous Health Measurement meeting and the International Network of Indigenous Health Knowledge and Development
    • reviewing the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Fields of Science classification
    • drafting, with the OECD Benchmark Advisory Group, the new edition of the OECD's Benchmark Definition of Foreign Direct Investment, the international standard used for reporting direct investment statistics to the OECD
    • participating in an United Nations Economic Commission for Europe pilot study to measure member countries international emigration using other countries' immigration statistics
    • contributing to the second revision of Principles and Recommendations, a set of guidelines and processes, methodologies, standards and frameworks for undertaking population censuses. Revision 2 is being prepared with a focus on the 2010 world round of population censuses.


      The ICP is a statistical initiative to produce internationally comparable expenditure values, purchasing power parity (PPP) estimates and comparative price levels. All major international development agencies, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Development Fund, use PPP to analyse economic and social conditions within their areas of concern. PPP takes into account the cost of a common basket of goods in the countries being compared. The ICP offers a powerful tool for comparative research on economic and social development.

      The ABS has been heavily involved in most recent ICP exercises. The Australian Statistician is the Chair of the ICP's Global Executive Board, which last met in June 2006. The Asian Development Bank is responsible for coordinating the Asia-Pacific region's participation in the ICP. A Regional Advisory Board for the Asia-Pacific region meets about every 6 to 8 months to monitor progress in the region. The Deputy Australian Statistician for Economic Statistics is a member of this Board, and the head of the ABS's Prices Branch is a member of the ICP's Technical Advisory Group.

      The ABS will continue to assist the Asian Development Bank as required. The Asian Development Bank is planning to release preliminary PPPs for consumption items in October 2006 and for the full GDP in early 2007. The final report on the Asian/Pacific ICP is scheduled for release in September 2007.


The ABS continues to provide a valuable contribution to international statistical training, including through the United Nations Statistical Institute for Asia and the Pacific (SIAP), the South East Asian Central Banks Research and Training Centre, the Bank of Korea from the Republic of Korea and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The ABS provides international statistical assistance to countries in the Asia-Pacific region which seek ABS advice and support, and are high priority for the Australian Government. The ABS currently has three major long term programs of technical assistance in place:
    a. Indonesia: Government Partnership Fund

    b. Pacific Region: Pacific Governance Support Program

    c. Vanuatu: Vanuatu Statistical Institutional Strengthening Program


      The ABS has had a long association with Badan Pusat Statistik – Statistics Indonesia (BPS). Most recently, in response to the tsunami disaster in Indonesia, the Australia Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development (AIPRD) was established. As part of the AIPRD, AusAID is managing a Government Partnership Fund (GPF) to assist Indonesia. The GPF is a flagship of Australia's enhanced partnership with Indonesia and will provide a vehicle for supporting the further development of Indonesia's economic governance and public sector management capabilities.

      Specifically, the goal of ABS involvement in the GPF is to improve the Indonesian statistical system and to establish greater coordination and a stronger relationship between Australia and BPS and Bank Indonesia, with a mutually agreed identification of skill and capability gaps.

      A scoping mission to Indonesia was undertaken in April 2006 by two senior ABS officers to achieve understanding and agreement between the ABS, BPS and Bank Indonesia on priorities (dissemination and data warehousing; national accounts and data sources; labour statistics; statistical methodology) and emerging issues, and to develop a strategy to address those priorities.

      In addition, the Director General of BPS, Dr Choiril Maksum, and a party of three other high level BPS representatives visited the ABS in June 2006 to discuss statistical priorities and issues, together with matters of mutual interest. During the visit a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the BPS and the ABS was signed by the heads of both Agencies.

      In 2006–07, subject to AusAID funding, a large-scale program of statistical capacity building that pursues the priorities listed above will commence.
Image: The Australian Statistician signing the Memorandum of Understanding in June 2006 with the Director General of Badan Pusat Statistik - Statistics Indonesia

The Australian Statistician signing the Memorandum of Understanding in June 2006 with the Director General of Badan Pusat Statistik – Statistics Indonesia

      In 2005, AusAID agreed to fund an ABS proposal under its Pacific Governance Support Program (PGSP). The aim of the proposal is to strengthen the national statistical systems of Pacific Island countries. The ABS proposal outlines a two stage process working collaboratively with the Secretariat of Pacific Community (SPC) to enhance the capabilities of national statistics offices in Pacific Island countries in: project management; strategic planning and development of a forward work program; and building capacity to deliver a forward work program.

      Stage 1 comprises a pilot project to deliver project management capabilities to three Pacific Island countries (Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu) with the assistance of the SPC. A detailed project plan for a major statistical deliverable for each country will be developed.

      Stage 2 proposes that the pilot project be extended to Pacific Island countries not included in the pilot. It is also proposed to commence a program to improve national statistics through improved corporate governance and strategic planning, forward work programming and capacity building.

      In June 2006, the program commenced with the delivery of project management training to the Solomon Islands which was deemed a great success.

      C. VANUATU

      In April 2006, the ABS and AusAID signed a Record of Understanding to continue ABS assistance to the Vanuatu National Statistics Office (VNSO) through the Vanuatu Statistical Institutional Strengthening Program. The aim of the program is to ensure the sustainable development and capability of the VNSO through a number of corporate governance activities such as developing a general strategic plan, a five year forward work plan, a general resourcing plan, a human resource plan (including attraction, recruitment and retention of appropriately skilled staff), a skills development plan and a succession plan.

      Two ABS officers delivered strategic planning and forward work programming training to the VNSO in June 2006.
In addition to planned programs of assistance, the ABS provided statistical advice and capacity building in response to various requests from countries in the region and from international statistical organisations. This included assistance to:
    • India on its business register
    • United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in the field of disability statistics, and
    • Thailand on data management systems


    The Second International Round Table on Managing for Development Results, held in Marrakesh in 2004, adopted the Marrakesh Action Plan for Statistics (MAPS). This plan comprises six streams of activity to advance the statistical systems of developing countries:

    (i) help countries prepare strategic statistical development plans

    (ii) increase financing for statistical capacity building

    (iii) support preparations for the 2010 round of population censuses

    (iv) establish an International Household Survey Network to improve coordination of surveys and increase access to data

    (v) undertake short-term actions to improve the monitoring of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) indicators, and

    (vi) increase the accountability of the international statistical system.

    The ABS supports the MAPS and believes it has potential to provide a framework for future statistical capacity work at a global level. In line with the MAPS, the United Nations Statistical Division formed a 'Friends of the Chair group' (FOC) to investigate underlying causes of the paucity and poor quality of statistics available to report on progress towards achieving the MDGs. The Australian Statistician was nominated to the FOC and subsequently appointed Moderator.

    The FOC made a number of recommendations on how to improve the indicators associated with monitoring MDGs. The recommendations were tabled at the March 2006 meeting of the UN Statistical Commission (UNSC). The recommendations received strong support which culminated in the unanimous passing of a resolution aimed at improving reporting against MDGs.

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