The ABS continued its role as an important and active member of the international statistical community in 2001-02. It is regarded as one of the world’s best international statistical citizens. The main activities of the ABS during the year, in terms of international involvement, were contributing to the development of international statistical classifications, frameworks and standards in a variety of international forums, and providing technical assistance to overseas statistical agencies, particularly developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
Key international meetings attended during the year included the United Nations (UN) Statistical Commission (the peak intergovernmental body for official statistics) where Australia is represented by the ABS. At this year's session, the Commission reviewed progress and set directions for further action on several topics on which Australia had been active. These included: the International Comparison Program which produces purchasing power parities to enable cross-country comparison of gross domestic product and other economic aggregates; harmonization and rationalisation of indicators stemming from major UN conferences and other development indicators; and the importance of UN regional commissions in regional statistical capacity building and implementation of global programs.
The ABS also made contributions to the development of statistical standards through a number of international groups specialising in individual fields of statistics, whose work is coordinated by the UN Statistical Commission. Further, the Australian Statistician was invited to address several international meetings on key elements of a national statistical service.
During the year, the ABS held bilateral management meetings with two other national statistical agencies, Statistics New Zealand and Statistics Netherlands. They provided opportunities for the chief executives and senior executives to pursue management issues of common concern and improve working arrangements between the agencies. In addition, during the year the ABS hosted visits by heads of the national statistical services of the Philippines, Singapore and Pakistan, and a high level delegation from Japan led by a former Director-General of the Statistics Bureau of Japan. There were also other exchanges of visits with a number of national statistical agencies to share knowledge on specific topics.
Several senior ABS staff participated in the August 2001 biennial session of the International Statistical Institute (ISI), the peak professional body for statisticians in all fields. At the session, the Australian Statistician became President of the ISI until 2003. In addition, the session formally accepted an invitation from the Australian Government for the 2005 session to be held in Sydney.
Australia, represented by the ABS, is also an active participant in the Committee on Statistics of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The Australian representative is currently the Chairperson. During the year ESCAP changed its structure (effective from 2003), and Australia (with briefing by the ABS to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) was a strong influence in maintaining appropriate provision for statistical work.
The ABS continued to provide a valuable contribution to international statistical training through the UN Statistical Institute for Asia and the Pacific. Australia is a member of the Governing Board, and the Australian representative (from the ABS) was re-elected as Chairman in 2001.
Following the signing in April 2001 of an updated Memorandum of Understanding with the Indonesian statistical agency, BPS - Statistics Indonesia (BPS), the ABS continued its program of technical cooperation. The Australian Statistician visited BPS in June 2002 to review priorities.
Also during 2001-02 a twelve month activity to assist the Philippines improve its national accounts commenced, and arrangements were concluded for a second phase (thirty months) of assistance to Thailand to strengthen its macro-economic statistics. The ABS has also provided officers for workshops to assist developing countries in various priority fields of statistics, including several workshops organised by the UN Statistics Division for the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries. Other technical assistance was also provided for a number of countries, including Bhutan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, North Korea, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Viet Nam.
ABS technical assistance in the Asia-Pacific region is undertaken in cooperation with the Australian Agency for International Development which provides funding for some activities. The ABS is grateful for that support.
Pictured from left, Australian Statistician, Dennis Trewin; Peter Harper, Acting Deputy Australian Statistician;
Professor Setsuo Suoh, Professor in Computer Science, Information Systems Centre, Kobe University of Commerce;
Sandanori Nagayama, Vice President, Japan Statistical Association;
and former Australian Statistician Bill McLennan.
The Japanese delegation was here to study the collection,
compilation and analysis of statistical data on arts and culture in Australia.