1002.0 - Australian Statistics Advisory Council - Annual Report, 2013-14  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/12/2014   
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Geoff Allen, Chair of ASAC


The role of ASAC is to provide guidance to the Minister and the Australian Statistician on the directions of, and priorities for, official statistics. This includes the improvement, extension and coordination of statistical services provided for public purposes in Australia.

The Council met in August 2013, November 2013 and June 2014, with discussions covering a broad range of topics including the:

    • ABS’s strategic directions and its forward work program;
    • ABS’s future sustainability and its critical statistical infrastructure transformation program;
    • Essential Statistical Assets for Australia initiative;
    • Council’s plans to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Australia’s official statistics;
    • ABS’s topic recommendations for the 2016 Census of Population and Housing; and,
    • ABS’s broad directions for the 2016 Census Data Enhancement program.

The meeting in November 2013 provided an opportunity for ASAC members to farewell the Australian Statistician, Mr Brian Pink, who retired in January 2014. I would like to acknowledge Mr Pink’s creative and innovative contribution over the last seven years as Australian Statistician, and thank him for his positive approach to working with the Council and his willingness to consider and act on the advice the Council provided.

A particular focus in the meetings has been the ABS’s ageing and fragile business systems. ASAC has supported the steps the ABS has taken as a first stage response to replace ageing capital infrastructure. However, ASAC is deeply concerned that, without investment by government, key official statistics are being placed at critical risk and the consequences of a loss of quality will have an economic impact on the government and the wider community. ASAC strongly supports the work on this initiative continuing and will raise the critical nature of achieving further investment by government for this initiative in appropriate forums, as well as with the new Australian Statistician soon after he or she is appointed.

ASAC continues to lead discussions on the need for a national approach to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of Australia’s official statistical system. The National Commission of Audit provided an opportunity for ASAC to raise key concerns such as the need to reduce duplication of data collection, standardise definitions and make better use of administrative data. The National Commission of Audit’s recognition of the need to improve the use of data in Commonwealth policy development and service delivery is a welcome step in raising the level of awareness of these issues and gathering support for reform of the statistical system.

The Council’s desire to see an effective and efficient statistical system led to the ‘Crisp Revisited’ Project. (The title of this project refers to the work of the Committee on Integration of Data Systems, established in 1973, which undertook a wide ranging examination of Australia’s statistical system. The committee was known as the Crisp Committee as its chairman was named LF Crisp.) The Crisp Revisited Project aims to develop a national statistics policy and a business case for reform of the statistical system and will lead to a more efficient statistical system. Another key project ASAC has been leading with the ABS is the Essential Statistical Assets for Australia initiative, which will allow for effective prioritisation of investment, focus and effort within the National Statistical Service (NSS). The focus in 2013-14 has been on assessing the quality of the assets present on the list of Essential Statistical Assets for Australia, which is an agreed list of the most critical official statistics.

I am pleased to see both of these key projects taking shape this year, as both seek to reform the way in which governments invest in statistics. I look forward to working closely with the new Australian Statistician on these key projects and I appreciate the enthusiasm of Council members and the ABS in progressing these significant initiatives.

The Council has seen a number of changes to its membership this year with the retirement of Mr Brian Pink as Statistician, as well as the retirements of Ms Pam Davoren and Ms Wendy Sawford, the resignation of Mr Peter Verwer to take up a position overseas, and the terms of Professor Graeme Hugo AO, Ms Louise Sylvan and Mr Michael Taylor AO ending. I would like to take this opportunity to thank departing members for their contributions to the work of the Council. The work Council members undertake to support the activities of the ABS, and further the development of the NSS, is highly valued. In particular I’d like to acknowledge the contributions of long-term members Professor Graeme Hugo and Ms Louise Sylvan; their ongoing commitment to the Council over many years has been greatly appreciated.

It has been another busy year for the Council. I would like to thank Council members for their dedication and their support for ABS activities during the year. I would like to acknowledge and thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, the Hon Steven Ciobo MP, for his support of the ABS and his interest in the Council.
I would also like to convey my appreciation to the ABS staff members who provide secretariat services to the Council, arranging our meetings each year and administering ASAC memberships.
I look forward to continuing to work with the Council, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, State and Territory Governments and other key stakeholders in the National Statistical Service to build a richer portfolio of official statistics for Australia.

This report will be available on the Council website (www.asac.gov.au), which also contains information about the Council, including meetings, functions and membership.

Geoff Allen AM