1006.0 - Forward Work Program, 2014-15 to 2017-18  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/11/2014   
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The ABS establishes its work program in response to current and emerging statistical priorities, and in the context of the ABS mission and corporate plan. To help in prioritising and shaping its forward work program, the ABS has identified four overarching goals in its corporate plan. The strategies to achieve each goal underpin the forward work program and the organisation’s planning mechanisms.


Informed and better use of Australia's statistical assets


  • deliver high quality, objective and flexible official statistics
  • improve the accessibility, timeliness and relevance of Australia’s statistical information
  • improve the management and informed use of official statistical information.


Timely high quality statistical information that is readily accessible.

Continued trust and support of providers

  • effective engagement with providers
  • develop solutions that maintain confidentiality but unlock the value of information.


Engaged, responsive and supportive providers who trust the ABS.

Long-term organisational sustainability

  • better prepare our people for the future
  • transform our business systems and processes
  • foster our ability to innovate.


A capable, innovative and productive organisation.

Respected leader in the national and international statistical communities

  • enhance the coordination of, and investment in, the National Statistical Service
  • build strong statistical capacity and capability domestically and within Asia and the Pacific region
  • shape and influence national and international discussions regarding statistical frameworks and policies.


The ABS is influential and sought after for independent information, advice and expertise.


Transforming the way we collect, manage and deliver information: the ABS 2017 Program

The rapidly evolving information environment presents important opportunities for the ABS. As information becomes increasingly accessible and immediate, our partners expect Australia's statistical system to improve on a similar trajectory. The ABS 2017 program is addressing key concerns such as the timeliness, flexibility and agility of official statistics. To continue to meet expectations, our infrastructure needs to cope with higher volumes of data from a wider range of sources, and we need our business processes to enable us to quickly translate data into high-quality, relevant and trusted statistics.

The ABS 2017 program is transforming our business processes and information systems to address these challenges. This includes improvements to how we collect, collate, manage, use and disseminate statistical information.

The harmonisation of statistical production and information management approaches needed within the ABS are also needed by other national statistical offices. The ABS is collaborating internationally to develop the next generation of statistical infrastructure. Work currently underway in the international statistical community is focussing on business architecture; administrative data; new platforms for collection; and innovation in dissemination.

Delivering a successful predominantly digital Census in 2016

Australia's seventeenth national Census of Population and Housing, to be held in August 2016, will be significantly different from the previous Censuses. The 2016 Census will be the first Census with a majority of responses received online, with a target of six and a half million households using the eCensus, and the first Census that the majority of households are contacted via mail rather than by a Census collector. These major changes are necessary to ensure the long term sustainability of the Census program and to establish a foundation for future development and innovation that takes full advantage of the available technology.

The key goals for the 2016 Census are to:
  • maintain and make targeted improvements to the coverage of the population overall, including at the small area level and for specific population groups
  • maximise the value of the Census by improving data quality (relevance, timeliness, accuracy, coherence, interpretability, accessibility)
  • increase the efficiency of operations throughout the end-to-end Census process
  • contribute to the sustainability of the ABS and the Census program
  • protect the privacy of all Australians.

In order to support the significant change in Census operations in 2016 the ABS needs to develop new capabilities in relation to field force management and coordination; mechanisms and systems to engage most citizens online; an up-to-date and accurate national residential address list; real-time monitoring of Census operations; and a smarter online form that is compatible with mobile devices. This capability development will be supported with an annual field testing program that will allow new processes, systems and methodologies to be tested in the real world and refined before they are required for operation in 2016.

Providing leadership and services to maximise the use of government data

There is untapped potential to use existing data and new data analytic techniques in a way that protects respondents and improves the efficiency and effectiveness of government. Consistent with the ABS's goal to be a respected leader in the national and international statistical communities, the ABS will lead significant whole-of-government initiatives including:
  • identifying Australia's Essential Statistical Assets (ESA) and Infrastructure
  • developing and implementing the Spatial Statistical Framework
  • developing a National Statistics Policy
  • reducing regulatory burden and red tape.

The ABS will also engage with whole-of-government priorities such as Big Data and Open Government, as well as APS Modernisation and Efficiency strategies, particularly through the provision of value add advice and services such as anonymisation services, data integration services and data access services.

Essential Statistical Assets for Australia

The aim of the ESA for Australia initiative is to allow for effective prioritisation of investment, focus and effort within the National Statistical Service, by identifying those essential statistical assets which are critical to decision-making in a complex and sometimes fragmented information environment across Australia.

There are four phases in the overall initiative:
  • phase 1 – developing the 2013 list of ESA for Australia (complete)
  • phase 2 – assessing the quality of the assets present on the list of ESA for Australia
  • phase 3 – developing a list of Essential Statistical Infrastructure
  • phase 4 – identifying and pursuing future investment priorities.

Phase one of the initiative, the 2013 list of Essential Statistical Assets for Australia (ABS cat. no. 1395.0) is complete. The focus for 2014-15 will be progressing phase two (quality assessment and gap analysis of the ESA for Australia list) and phase three (identifying Australia's essential statistical infrastructure).

Spatial Statistical Framework

The ABS is responding to the challenge of better integrating statistical and geospatial information by developing the Statistical Spatial Framework (SSF). This framework will provide a common approach to connecting people-centric (socio-economic) information to a location and will improve the accessibility and usability of this spatially-enabled information. The SSF will help any organisation wanting to understand people, society and the economy in the context of place.

National Statistics Policy

The National Statistics Policy (NSP) has two main purposes. It provides a mechanism to improve the overall functionality and utility of the national statistical system by ensuring statistical activities are effectively coordinated, and it provides goals for the system. The NSP:
  • defines the national statistical system
  • provides a set of goals for the future of the national statistical system
  • identifies the various participants and specifies their responsibilities
  • provides a set of principles and practices to guide the behaviour of participants
  • sets out the governance framework needed to adequately manage and improve the system and achieve the future goals.

Since May 2013, the ABS has worked with stakeholders from other government departments (both Australian Government and State/Territory Governments) to develop a draft NSP. The draft policy was discussed by the Australian Statistics Advisory Council in June 2014 and the aim is to finalise the policy in 2014-15.

Adoption and promotion of the NSP by all participants within the national statistical system is central to maintaining an effective and efficient statistical service that meets the needs of government and society, and is both trustworthy and trusted.

Reducing regulatory burden and red tape

The Government’s Deregulation Agenda aims to reduce unnecessary red tape costs on individuals, businesses and community organisations. The following ABS initiatives are contributing to this objective:
  • the Statistical Clearing House provides a clearing process for statistical collections (of businesses) to reduce duplication, eliminate poor practice and monitor whole-of-government burden
  • methodological innovations including earlier close-off of data collection for the Monthly Population Survey is lowering regulatory burden on these households
  • support for the Standard Business Reporting program aimed at streamlining financial reporting for businesses and intermediaries
  • increasing the use of existing strategic datasets to replace direct collection
  • streamlining administrative procedures, collection methods (including eForms) and provider contact.