1001.0 - Annual Report - ABS Annual Report, 2003-04  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/10/2004   
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Contents >> Section 1 - Summary of Operations >> Chapter 1 - Executive Summary - Statistical Developments in 2003-04

A major statistical milestone was reached on 4 December 2003 when Australia's population reached 20 million. To mark the occasion a function was held at ABS House. Among the speakers celebrating the event at ABS House were The Treasurer, the Hon. Peter Costello, MP, and prominent demographer Professor Graeme Hugo. As well, the ABS issued '20,000,000' certificates to babies born between 3 and 5 December 2003.

Image: Celebrating Australia's population reaching 20 million

Professor Graeme Hugo (left), Mr Dennis Trewin (middle) and The Treasurer, the Hon. Peter Costello, MP, celebrate Australia’s population reaching 20 million.

Extending Analytical Work

The ABS continued to focus on extending its analytical capability in 2003-04 with a number of significant research projects undertaken. These included release of the 2001 census based socioeconomic indexes for areas, the production of experimental spatial price indexes for Australian capital cities, and estimating the formation of Australia's human capital. Also released in 2003-04 was a series of publications from the 2001 census as part of the Australian Census Analytic Program and examining aspects of Australian society. Releases included: Counting the Homeless (cat. no. 2050.0); Indigenous Australians in the Contemporary Labour Market (cat. no. 2052.0); Australians' Ancestries (cat. no. 2054.0); The Micro-Dynamics of Change in Australian Agriculture: 1976-2001 (cat. no. 2055.0); and Australia Online: How Australians are Using Computers and the Internet (cat. no. 2056.0).

The Census

Concurrent with the release of these final analytical outputs from the 2001 census has been the preparations for the 2006 Census of Population and Housing which are now well progressed. The ABS began the formal process of public consultation for the 2006 census with the release, on 2 July 2003, of the Information Paper: Census of Population and Housing, ABS Views on Content and Procedures, 2006 (cat. no. 2007.0). Readers were invited to respond to the information paper by lodging submissions, which was followed up by seminars in all states and territories. The main aim of the consultation was to ensure that the census continues to collect information on issues considered the most relevant at the time. Consultation has been finalised and a proposal incorporating the views of the Australian Statistics Advisory Council is being prepared for consideration by the government.

An integral component of the 2006 census development has been the formation of the Census Indigenous Enumeration Strategy Working Group to assist in developing strategies to ensure a complete enumeration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the 2006 census. This is reported on more fully in the special article 'Progress on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics' in Chapter 3.

Measuring Progress

In April 2004 the ABS published Measures of Australia's Progress, 2004 (cat. no. 1370.0). It follows on from the ground breaking Measuring Australia's Progress (MAP1) released in 2002 and reflects the ABS view that measuring a nation's progress is one of the most important tasks that a national statistical agency can take on. As with its predecessor, the intention of Measures of Australia's Progress, is to provide a digestible selection of statistical indicators that measure change within different aspects of Australian life so as to allow Australians to make their own assessment of whether life in Australia is improving. The release of the publication attracted significant positive media coverage and the ABS continues to receive very positive feedback for the initiative. In October 2003 the Australian Statistician was recognised by the Bulletin magazine in its Smart 100 awards for making a significant and positive contribution to Australian life through the development and publication by the ABS of MAP1.

Developments in Macroeconomics

Australia's national accounts are a critical output of the ABS and in 2003-04 a number of initiatives such as Quarterly Supply and Use (QSU) tables, and new measures of labour input, were introduced to further improve the quality of the national accounts. The QSU tables are used as a tool to assist in the compilation of quarterly national accounts. Their use will lead to improvements in the national accounts as they enable inconsistencies between the measures of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to be identified and investigated more systematically, and at a greater level of detail, than is possible by simply examining the aggregates. QSU tables will continue to be developed and their use may be extended in the future. A new measure of labour input was implemented - quality adjusted hours worked. This measure will provide a more accurate representation of labour input as it takes account of changes in the educational attainment and experience of the work force. During 2003-04 a number of feature articles were published in Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product (cat. no. 5206.0) including the statistical treatment of the 2003 Rugby World Cup, the economic activity in the Timor Sea, and new analytical measures of income, saving and wealth. A further article was published in Australian Economic Indicators (cat. no. 1350.0) describing Australia's underground economy in the context of measuring GDP.

Australia's external debt liabilities were published for the first time during 2003-04 in Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia (cat. no. 5302.0). The information presented meets Australia's obligations under the International Monetary Fund's Special Data Dissemination Standard.

A number of feature articles were published on the ABS web site in conjunction with the release of International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia (cat. no. 5368.0) throughout 2003-04. One particular article 'Australian Outward Foreign Affiliates Trade 2002-03' outlined preliminary results from a new Survey of Outward Foreign Affiliates Trade. Other articles published in 2003-04 included analysis of Australia's exporters and importers as well as Australia's trade with the United States of America.

The ABS has worked closely with authorities responsible for developing and administering the accounting standards that are applied by the Australian government. As part of a major review of its Government Finance Statistics (GFS), the ABS released Australian System of Government Finance Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods - Electronic Delivery (cat. no. 5514.0.55.001). The publication outlines the major changes to GFS including the move to accrual accounting. The culmination of the extensive work conducted on GFS was the first release of Government Finance Statistics, Australia, Quarterly, Electronic Delivery (cat. no. 5519.0.55.001).

Spatial Price Indexes

The ABS continues to expand its analysis and activities in the measurement of prices. In response to strong user demand, a set of experimental spatial consumer price indexes were produced which are intended to measure price levels between the state and territory capital cities. This contrasts with the existing consumer price index which measures price movements for individual cities only and cannot be used to make direct comparisons of price levels between cities. Also published for the first time in 2003-04 were seasonally adjusted wage cost indexes. As well, a revised edition of Australian Consumer Price Index: Concepts Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6461.0) was released in July 2003.

Statistical Infrastructure

In 2003-04 strategies were developed to incorporate the new business population frame based on the Australian Business Register (ABR) for the Agriculture, Mining and Manufacturing Surveys. The ABR is a whole of government register of businesses which will eventually become the main source of businesses on the ABS Business Register. The ABS is also developing a Business Longitudinal Database (BLD) using the ABR as the principle source of update for the population frame. The database will be populated with a combination of point in time and longitudinal administrative and ABS survey data. The BLD will take advantage of the input data warehouse infrastructure being developed for the storage of all ABS input business data. Seminars on the BLD project were conducted in state capitals during October 2003.

The redevelopment of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), a core element of the framework for the integration of business statistics, was finalised in 2003-04. This is a major development and the new ANZSIC, which will more accurately reflect current economic circumstances, will be incorporated into ABS statistics commencing with the 2006 Census of Population and Housing.

Significant progress has been made in the development of geocoding infrastructure in Australia. In March 2004 the Geocoded National Address File (G-NAF) was released by the Public Sector Mapping Agencies Australia Ltd (PSMA). The G-NAF has been developed by PSMA in association with the ABS, the Australian Electoral Commission, Centrelink and Australia Post. The ABS is currently developing Mesh Blocks, a new micro level statistical geography unit for Australia, based on the G-NAF. This is reported on more fully in the Special Article - Developments in Regional Statistics.

Image: Official signing of the Geocoded National Address File licence

Ms Susan Linacre, Deputy Australian Statistician (seated left) and Mr Olaf Hedberg, Independent Chairman, Public Sector Mapping Agencies Australia Ltd (seated right) at the official signing of the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Geocoded National Address File licence

The Environment

One of the most significant emerging environmental issues is water use. The ABS held a Water Statistics Seminar early in 2004 where there was strong support for ABS activities in this area. During 2003-04 the ABS undertook a survey of water use by farmers. Results of the survey are expected to be released in 2004-05. The ABS also published a range of other information concerning water issues in 2003-04 including Domestic Water Use, Western Australia (cat. no. 4616.5.55.001) and Water Account, Australia (cat. no. 4610.0).

The publication Energy Statistics, Australia - Electronic Delivery (cat. no. 4649.0.55.001), released in December 2003, presented results from the ABS Energy Survey 2001-02 conducted in conjunction with the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics (ABARE). The survey had a better data supply and improved coverage and response rates compared with the previous survey which was conducted solely by ABARE.

Developments in Labour Statistics

The ABS introduced a number of significant improvements to labour force statistics with the release of the February 2004 issue of Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0). From February 2004 estimates were compiled using updated population benchmarks based on results from the 2001 census. Estimates for the past five years have been revised as a result. For the first time, regional population benchmarks were used resulting in improved estimates for labour force regions.

During 2003-04 the ABS commenced a phased implementation of Computer Assisted Interviewing (CAI) in the Monthly Population Survey. Throughout the phased implementation there has been analysis undertaken to measure and ensure that the impacts (if any) on the labour force estimates are minimal. The ABS has now phased in 70 per cent of the Monthly Population Survey sample to CAI with the full phase-in to be completed in the early part of 2004-05. The use of CAI will increase interviewer productivity through improved survey field collection structures and systems and will result in more flexible and cost effective household survey data collection.

Innovation Statistics

With financial assistance from the Department of Education, Science and Training and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources in 2003-04 the ABS developed an Innovation Survey which was conducted in respect of 2003. The purpose of the survey was to ascertain the proportion and type of businesses that are involved in innovation such as introducing new products, services and processes. The survey will also provide information on the types of innovation that are occurring and their impact on the output and productivity of businesses. Data collected will assist policy development at Australian and state levels of government and will be of interest to industry associations, businesses and research organisations. The data are being compiled in accordance with relevant Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development guidelines to facilitate international comparisons.

Developments in Social Statistics

Social capital is a topic of considerable interest to a wide range of people due to its links between individual and community wellbeing. Following extensive consultation the ABS developed a broad conceptual framework for measuring social capital. This culminated in the release of Information Paper: Measuring Social Capital - An Australian Framework and Indicators (cat. no. 1378.0). The indicators in the framework are primarily focused on social relationships. Also released in 2003-04 was a new web-based product, Measures of a Knowledge-based Economy and Society, Australia - Electronic Delivery (cat. no. 1377.0). This product presents indicators within the conceptual framework outlined in the Discussion Paper: Measuring a Knowledge-based Economy and Society - An Australian Framework (cat. no. 1375.0). It also provides an understanding of the role of social capital in the economy. The statistical indicators presented in this product comprise the first ABS compendium of statistics on the knowledge-based economy and society, and will be updated on the web as data become available.

Results from two major social surveys were published in 2003-04. The General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2002 (cat. no. 4159.0) provides a profile of the socioeconomic characteristics of Australia's adult population and presents data on a range of social dimensions of the Australian community including aspects of social attachment. Results of a similar survey of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were published in National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2002 (NATSISS) (cat. no. 4714.0). The NATSISS has significant content overlap with the 1994 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey and the General Social Survey allowing comparisons of Indigenous circumstances both over time and with other non-Indigenous Australians.

In 2003-04 the ABS successfully completed the 2003 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers. Preliminary results from the survey, which present a summary of disability prevalence in Australia, were published in Disability, Australia (cat. no. 4446.0).

In consultation with major stakeholders, the development of the content and methodology for the 2004-05 National Health Survey (NHS) and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey has commenced. Using information from the 2001 and 1995 NHSs, the ABS released a number of special articles during 2003-04 discussing the prevalence of a range of health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. We are grateful to the Department of Health and Ageing who assisted with the funding of these surveys.

A major collection undertaken in 2003-04 by the ABS was the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES). The HIES comprises two surveys - the Household Expenditure Survey, conducted every five years; and the Survey of Income and Housing Costs, conducted every two years. The HIES in particular is critical to the compilation of the CPI. The surveys were conducted successfully with target response rates achieved in spite of adverse and somewhat misleading media coverage in December 2003. The success of the survey reflects the acceptance by the community of the importance of this survey and the efforts and professionalism of ABS interviewers.

National Statistical Service

Progress continues on the concept of the National Statistical Service (NSS) and the development of a National Data Network. These types of initiatives were strongly supported in the 'Connecting Government' report launched by the Australian Public Service's Management Advisory Committee in April 2004. As part of its role in progressing the NSS, the ABS is cooperating with a range of organisations in an effort to increase and improve statistical output. In February 2004 the Statistician signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the South Australian Premier's Department for South Australia to become the first NSS Foundation Member. During the year a NSS handbook and web site www.nss.gov.au have been produced and are designed to assist statistical collection managers, designers and users of statistical products.

An ongoing focus of the ABS is the expansion in the use of administrative by-product data. This has been aided by an agreement with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on a protocol which sets out the way in which the ABS uses taxation data. One of the surveys which has recently benefited from administrative by-product data is the Retail Business Survey. The survey will utilise Business Activity Statement data provided by the ATO leading to a reduced number of businesses included in the survey.

A major initiative of the ABS in recent years has been the preparation of Information Development Plans (IDPs) which are designed to assist in identifying issues and data gaps in particular fields of statistics, and provide strategies to address the issues and gaps. One of the key features of IDPs is the collaboration with key stakeholders who can assist in identifying relevant non-ABS data. Some of the IDPs which are currently in various stages of development include tourism, crime and justice, ageing, and education and training statistics.

Legislation and Governance

In 2003-04 legislative changes were made to relevant ABS legislation through the Statistics Legislation Amendment Bill which was passed by parliament in September 2003. The changes were primarily for the purpose of rectifying deficiencies arising from amendments to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 in 1987 and 1999 so as to put beyond any doubt the secrecy provisions of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. The new legislation also enables the Statistician to second persons from other departmental agencies and international statistical organisations whilst ensuring that they are subject to the secrecy provisions of the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

The ABS held two meetings of the Australian Statistical Advisory Council (ASAC) in 2003-04 and one meeting of the State Statistical Forum. These meetings are important to the ABS as they help to identify major economic, social and environmental issues which are of policy significance in the coming three to five years. In addition, ASAC assists by advising the ABS on work priorities. Some of the topics discussed which were of particular interest to ASAC were 2006 population census content, non-profit institutions, social capital and wellbeing.

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