1002.0 - Australian Statistics Advisory Council - Annual Report, 2014-15  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/10/2015   
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The Council held four meetings during 2014-15, on 10 October 2014, 19 November 2014, 22 May 2015 and 30 June 2015. (See Agenda for ASAC Meetings section for agenda listings.)

The Council continues to focus on improving coordination, integration and cohesion of national statistics and making better use of administrative data sources.

ASAC welcomed the Australian Government’s invitation for the ABS to submit proposals on desirable changes to the ABS’s legislative framework as this leads into the wider reform work of the national statistical system that ASAC has been progressing with the Crisp Revisited Project.

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 on the situational analysis of the National Statistical System with ASAC working with the ABS to commission a confidential report by former Australian Government Secretary Mr David Borthwick AO PSM. The report makes a number of broad recommendations regarding better management and use of government data across the national statistical system. The Council agreed the Borthwick recommendations were on the right track, and noted that further work was needed in consultation with key stakeholders to develop more specific proposals.

In addition, ASAC continued to refine the development of a draft National Statistics Policy with consultation at the state level. The Council considers this draft policy “state/territory ready” and is satisfied that it could now be successfully adapted by jurisdictions.

ASAC continues to work closely with the ABS to progress the Essential Statistical Assets for Australia initiative, which will allow for effective prioritisation of investment, focus and effort within the National Statistical System. The focus in 2013-14 was on assessing the quality of the assets present on the list of Essential Statistical Assets (ESA) for Australia, which is an agreed list of the most critical official statistics. This year saw the publication of the Quality Assessments of Australia’s Essential Statistical Assets in December 2014 (Essential Statistical Assets for Australia Quality Assessments cat. no. 1395.0), which demonstrated the quality of Australia’s critical information is positive overall while highlighting areas for improvement and investment. The publication was a major achievement as now, for the first time in Australia, users and producers of statistics have a common understanding of how well Australia’s essential statistical assets meet critical dimensions of quality for statistical purposes, including timeliness, coverage and accuracy.

ASAC considered a wide ranging proposal by the ABS to undertake transformational change to all facets of its work program. For a number of years a concerned Council has identified critical needs that this proposal addresses. Government investment in the ABS will allow the ABS to transform its ageing infrastructure, systems and processes used to produce critical statistics as part of its Statistical Business Transformation Program. The Council provided feedback to the ABS on its plans to transform its people and economic statistics programs moving from a collection-centred to a solution-centred approach, to best meet stakeholder needs. Finally, the ABS proposed a broader organisational transformation program based on six elements: understanding and responding to the environment in which it operates; having a clear and focused strategy; having agile and effective governance; an expert, diverse workforce; a work culture that is attuned to high performance; and infrastructure that is fit for purpose for a 21st century national statistical office. The Council welcomed the Government’s commitment to facilitate these changes and is providing feedback to the ABS as it moves forward with its transformation agenda.

The Council discussed the major priorities for the ABS’s 2015-16 work program noting the increased focus on partnerships, the aspiration to improving access to microdata and the proposed flagship data integration projects. ASAC endorsed the new consultative approach the ABS has adopted to determine its work program through early and indepth engagement with Governments, users and stakeholders using the tiered framework developed in 2013-14 to prioritise its work program. Council members also provided input into the development of a new Corporate Plan for the ABS.

ASAC monitored progress on the 2016 Census and noted the preparations for the predominately digital first Census were on track. Members acknowledged the Australian Government decision to conduct the Census under the existing Census and Statistics regulations has meant the topics will be the same as those used in the 2011 Census and the 2006 Census. While members were disappointed that a range of other identified needs for small area data gained from the ABS’s public consultation process will not be met through this Census, the ABS assured the Council that those requirements will be reviewed in the broader context of the ABS’s Statistical Business Transformation Program.