The Chairperson of ASAC,
Professor Gary Banks AO |The bedrock of ‘evidence-based policy making’, and indeed decision making in business and society generally, is statistical information that is both relevant and robust. Furnishing such information is the core role of the ABS, which it has discharged with distinction over a long period. Arguably this national role, underpinned by statutory independence, has increased in importance as our society and economy have become more complex, with many contentious policy issues and a proliferation of (often conflicting) information sources.
In responding to such challenges, the ABS has been engaged in a major program of ‘transformation’ designed to upgrade its technical and organisational capability, and promote a culture of innovation and user focus. The Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC) has continued to monitor developments over the past year and offer strategic advice, drawing on the breadth and seniority of its membership. While considerable progress is evident, for which the ABS and its leadership are to be commended, it is also clear that transformation in a broader sense must become an ongoing process if the organisation is to meet the future challenges of its operating environment.
As emphasised in last year’s report, adequate resourcing is central to maintaining the quality of the ABS’s core statistical offerings, let alone its ability to respond to the rising needs and expectations of users. Budgetary tightening over the years has led to the paring back or cessation of certain collections, with some invidious choices facing the forward work program, on which ASAC’s advice has been sought. How proposals for budgetary supplementation are treated will be crucial to the capacity of the ABS to meet society’s information needs in the short as well as longer terms, and indeed the needs of government itself.
This annual report provides a brief account of ASAC’s role and activities over the past year and some areas of focus for the year ahead. The Council’s periodic face-to-face meetings are central to its contribution and I thank members for the depth and frankness of discussions. There were a number of changes of membership during the year and I note the appreciation of the Council for the contribution of those whose terms concluded. On the Council’s behalf I would also like to thank the ASAC Secretariat for its commitment and support.
Just prior to finalising this report, it was made known that the Australian Statistician, David W. Kalisch, would not be continuing beyond his current term. I would like to take this opportunity to record the Council’s deep appreciation for David’s leadership at the ABS and for the important contribution he has made.
Professor Gary Banks AO