Year in review: 2021-22

Latest release
Australian Statistics Advisory Council - Annual Report
Reference period
1 July 2021 - 30 June 2022

Year in review: 2021–22

The Council commends the ABS on the way it has responded to the needs of the Government and the Australian community as the global COVID-19 pandemic continued into 2021–22.

The Council held three meetings during 2021–22: in August 2021, November 2021, and April 2022 (see Appendix 2 for agendas).

ABS work program

The ABS objectives for 2021-22 (as outlined in its Corporate Plan) were:

  1. produce high-quality statistics
  2. generate timely new insights
  3. improve access to ABS statistics
  4. strengthen data capability across the APS
  5. reduce burden on data providers
  6. maintain a capable and well-governed Commonwealth agency.

The topics discussed at the Council meetings this year aligned with these objectives, with a particular focus on data requirements related to COVID-19, the 2021 Census, and developments in the Australian Public Service (APS) Data Professional Stream.

COVID-19 response

Council members were complimentary of the ABS on its continued response to COVID-19 and natural disasters, reflecting on the importance of ABS data assets in supporting and monitoring economic recovery. Of particular note were the:

  • provision of more timely and relevant data, and advice across a range of statistical products including commencing development of a monthly Consumer Price Index indicator
  • usefulness of alternative data assets such as Single Touch Payroll and banking transactions data
  • usefulness of the ABS Survey of Business Conditions and Sentiments in understanding issues around supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19
  • helpfulness of Strategic Partnership Managers in interpreting data and connecting state and territory members with subject matter experts.

ABS funding

The Council maintained its support for the ABS in its efforts to have its funding increased. It was pleased at the positive outcome from the October 2020 Budget.

2021 Census of Population and Housing

The Council received updates from the ABS on the 2021 Census of Population and Housing which was successfully delivered on 10 August 2021. In addition to a range of activities and milestones, the Council discussed:

  • the successful delivery of the 2021 Census and key lessons
  • mitigation strategies implemented for managing the potential effects of COVID-19 including additional data quality assurance measures
  • the release schedule for Census products
  • early thinking for the 2026 Census.

Australian Public Service Data Professional Stream

The APS Data Professional Stream was established to improve the data capability of the workforce by sourcing, growing and mobilising data expertise across the APS. In September 2020, the Australian Statistician, Dr David Gruen, was appointed the inaugural Head of the Data Profession.

The ABS updated the Council on the progress of APS Data Profession initiatives. The second-year work program for the initiative is focused on developing the frameworks and foundations required to uplift workforce capability and progress a model for an enduring Data Profession. To help shape its ongoing role and work program, the ABS invited the Council to suggest further opportunities for the Data Profession to build expertise and grow the number and proficiency of data professionals.

The Council commented on data ethics accreditation, and how members’ organisations consider and implement ethical principles. The Council also highlighted the importance of discussing governance and the sovereignty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data with regard to hosting sensitive data and information.

Cross-jurisdictional priorities

Council meetings provide an opportunity for the ABS to receive information and advice about emerging statistical challenges and opportunities across the jurisdictions and sectors represented.

In addition to those already identified, members highlighted the following priorities:

  • an ongoing appetite for quarterly Gross State Product data, labour force statistics and business insights, noting that volatility can be challenging for smaller jurisdictions
  • tracking the economic recovery from COVID-19 and natural disasters
  • assistance from the ABS to better understand population movements, supply chain disruptions, and labour supply, particularly as related to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19
  • gaining a more detailed understanding of changes in the housing market, including rates of household formation.
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