ASAC was established by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 (the ABS Act). Under subsection 18(1) of the ABS Act, the Council is to advise the Minister and the Australian Statistician on:
(a) the improvement, extension and co-ordination of statistical services provided for public purposes in Australia;
(b) annual and longer term priorities and programs of work that should be adopted in relation to major aspects of the provision of those statistical services; and
(c) any other matters relating generally to those statistical services.
Subsection 24(1) of the ABS Act provides that: the Council must, as soon as practicable after 30 June in each year, prepare and submit to the Minister, for presentation to the Parliament, a report relating to matters connected with the operation of this Act.
The ABS Act enables both the relevant Minister and the Australian Statistician to seek advice from the Council on these matters. The Australian Statistician keeps the Council informed of key developments related to the ABS. The Chairperson meets with the Minister and Australian Statistician as appropriate to ensure relevant advice and assistance from the Council are made available to them.
Role and operations of the Council
ASAC contributes to ABS decision-making about statistical priorities and helps inform its assessment of risks and appropriate strategies, as well as being an advocate for a national statistical system that is adequately resourced and effectively managed.
The ABS Act provides that the Council shall consist of a part-time Chairperson, the Australian Statistician (ex officio), and between ten and twenty-two part-time members, including a senior official from each State and Territory nominated by the Premier or Chief Minister. In addition, the Council includes representatives from academia, business and community sectors. Council members are appointed for their ability to identify emerging issues and needs and to be able to assist in promoting greater coordination nationally.
During 2017–18, the Ministers responsible for the ABS and ASAC were the Hon. Michael McCormack MP, until mid-December 2017 who was then succeeded by the Hon. Michael Sukkar MP, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer. The Minister appoints the Council Chairperson and members, for five and three years respectively. Members are eligible for reappointment when their terms expire.
As at 30 June 2018, the Council membership totalled eighteen, including the Chairperson, Gary Banks AO. The names and positions of those serving during the year are detailed in Membership of ASAC.
The Chairperson receives an annual fee as set by the Remuneration Tribunal, with other members serving in an honorary capacity. Members receive a prescribed travel allowance, where applicable, to support their attendance at meetings.
The Council meets in formal session three times a year, in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne (by rotation) as well as interacting out of session on specific matters requiring its attention.
Costs associated with the operations of ASAC are met from the ABS budget and secretariat services are provided, as part of their wider duties, by ABS staff. Until June 2018, the Office of ASAC Secretary was held for two years by Phillip Gould. He was replaced by Stephen Collett, Program Manager, Education, Crime and Culture Branch. Council secretariat services include arranging and supporting meetings, administering ASAC activities and membership, as well as assisting in the preparation of papers for the Council’s consideration, its Annual Report and any submissions, correspondence or papers to be issued under its authority or that of the Chairperson.
A formal ‘Statement of Intent’ outlining the role of ASAC and its operations and priorities for 2018 was endorsed by members at the February 2018 meeting (see 2018 Statement of Intent). It contains a particular focus on: preparations for the 2021 Census; monitoring progress with the ABS Transformation and Data Integration initiatives, and managing within existing resourcing constraints so as to minimise the downside risks.