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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The Council held three meetings during 2013-14, on 21 August 2013, 12 November 2013 and 17 June 2014. (See Agenda for ASAC Meetings section for agenda listings.)

National Statistical Service (NSS) and ASAC’s Role
The Council continues to focus on improving coordination, integration and cohesion of national statistics and making better use of administrative data sources.

The ASAC conceived and driven Crisp Revisited Project aims to make improvements to Australia’s national statistical system. A key focus this year has been the development work undertaken on a forward-looking national statistics policy. The draft policy has two aims: to present a vision and goals for the national statistical system, and to provide a coordination mechanism which would improve the overall functionality and utility of the national statistical system.

Various Council members have been involved in stakeholder consultations with the ABS to assist in developing this draft national statistics policy. The ASAC Chair and some Council members took part in the Crisp Revisited Reference Group meeting in March 2014 to further develop the draft policy. The draft policy was also discussed at the June 2014 ASAC meeting which provided an opportunity for those Council members who had not been directly involved to provide input. The policy aims to be equally relevant to state and territory governments and the Australian Government.

ASAC continues to work closely with the ABS to progress the Essential Statistical Assets for Australia initiative. Phase 1 of this project, the identification of the Essential Statistical Assets, was completed last year with 74 statistical assets identified. Work is underway concurrently on Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the initiative. Phase 2 aims to assess the quality of the statistical assets and provide an understanding of how well the currently produced information meets the critical needs of users, highlighting any gaps within existing statistics. Phase 3 of the initiative aims to identify the underlying essential statistical infrastructure, which represents a critical component of Australia’s statistical system. Phase 4 has also been progressed to determine priorities for investment in the national statistical system.

ABS Future Sustainability
As noted in the 2012-13 ASAC Annual Report, the Council is concerned by the ageing and fragile infrastructure held by the ABS and the high risk this poses to key national statistical outputs. The Council held an extraordinary meeting in August 2013 to provide advice and input to the ABS in the development of a business case to bring to government regarding its Critical Statistical Infrastructure Program. Members noted the compelling need for transformation combined with the government’s need to have quality evidence during times of increasing volatility made for a strong case for investment. ASAC supports the ABS in going forward with this business case to government.

ABS Forward Work Program
In light of the difficult financial situation facing the ABS, and despite positive efforts in finding productivity savings, ASAC agreed that the ABS would have to reduce its statistical work program to meet its appropriation. Council members were disappointed by this decision and emphasised that all the work of the ABS is valued by the Australian community. ASAC supported the considered approach undertaken by the ABS to ensure that, in making these difficult decisions, the ABS’s resources are used to the maximum benefit of governments and the broader community.

ASAC considered a framework proposed by the ABS for prioritising the ABS statistical program using a tiered approach (please see table 1). ASAC noted the work that the ABS had done in seeking input from key stakeholders on the statistical priorities to inform the final decision on the work program. The ABS has had to discontinue or reduce outputs in areas that are valued by the users of those statistics. If funding is provided for the work the ABS is ceasing, ABS advised ASAC that the ABS would reinstate it. ASAC agreed that the recommended work program in 2014-15 will continue to meet Australia’s core statistical needs.

Table 1 - Mapping of the ABS work program


CoreTier 0Essential institutional statistical capability and infrastructure required to deliver a quality National Statistical Service and remain relevant and sustainable as Australia’s National Statistical Organisation.
This includes systems and processes, methods, people capability, register and frames and standards, classifications and conceptual frameworks, data integration, dissemination and technology capabilities.
Tier 1Statistics that are considered to be the foundation work of a national statistical organisation.
Tier 2Important areas of statistics where there is a significant government outlay or where there is a significant public policy interest.

OtherTier 3Other important statistical work that is currently undertaken to meet identified user requirements that could be deemed as falling beyond tiers 1 to 2.

2016 Census of Population and Housing
A key topic of discussion at Council meetings this year has been the 2016 Census and the opportunities that a digital Census will provide in the future. The 2016 Census will be the first Australian Census that is predominantly digital, with the online form the primary method of response. In situations where this approach is not suitable, the traditional paper based form will be available. Council recognises this is an important step towards the future of a completely digital Census, which would allow the collection of more detailed information for specific population groups, by tailoring a path through the electronic form based on their reporting patterns.

The ABS has held an extensive public consultation process seeking feedback on the content of the 2016 Census to ensure the content is relevant and suitable to stakeholder needs. ASAC is pleased with the consultative and thorough approach the ABS has undertaken in determining stakeholder needs and has provided feedback and advice during this process.

Following assessment of the public submissions, recommendations on the nature and content of the 2016 Census were discussed at the ASAC meeting in June 2014. The ABS will undertake final testing, including the running of the Census major test in August 2014, prior to making a submission to the Australian Government outlining recommendations on the nature and content of the 2016 Census. The content of the 2016 Census is expected to be known in 2015.

2011 Census Data Enhancement Program Outcomes
ASAC considered the outcomes of the 2011 Census Data Enhancement (CDE) program in the June 2014 meeting and provided advice around early thinking for the 2016 CDE program.

The key projects in the 2011 program linked the 2011 Census data to:
    • the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s Migrant Settlement Database to provide greater insight into the settlement outcomes of permanent migrants to Australia; and,
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander death registrations to improve the quality of Indigenous mortality and life expectancy datasets.

In addition, the ABS created the Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset (ACLD) which brings together a 5% sample from the 2006 Census with corresponding records from the 2011 Census to create a research tool for exploring how Australian society is changing over time.

Council members acknowledged the 2011 CDE program had been highly successful, significantly maximising Census data and growing opportunities for policy relevant research and highlighted the popularity of the ACLD among researchers.

Council members noted it will be very important to ensure future CDE projects do not outpace community expectations. The ABS will be consulting with the community, privacy authorities and stakeholders in advance of the 2016 Census.