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Measuring a nation's progress - providing information about whether life is getting better - is one of the most important tasks that a national statistical agency can take on. For almost 100 years, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has been measuring Australia's progress through the multitude of statistics we publish relating to Australia's economy, society and environment. However, for the most part, our statistical publications have tended to focus on each of these three broad areas in isolation.
Recent years have seen growing public interest in the interrelationships between economic, social and environmental aspects of life. There have been, for example, debates about the sustainability of economic growth and a recognition that the environment is neither an inexhaustible source of raw materials nor capable of absorbing an unlimited amount of waste. Similarly, progress relates to social concerns - health, education and crime - and whether and how economic growth benefits those areas. In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission) called for the development of new ways to measure and assess progress towards sustainable development (often defined as 'development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'). The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was a further catalyst for discussion, as were calls from organisations such as the United Nations for better measures of social concerns to supplement the System of National Accounts. There is a great deal of interest as well in developing a broader set of economic statistics that give values to things hitherto left outside the traditional economic system. Around the world a consensus is growing that countries and governments need to develop a more comprehensive view of progress, rather than focusing mainly on economic indicators such as Gross Domestic Product. In Australia a number of projects are underway to tackle these issues, such as the State of the Environment reports, and the Commonwealth Government's set of headline sustainability indicators.
Measures of Australia's Progress will be produced ever year from now on. It will continue to evolve and so we continue to seek your feedback to help us improve future issues of the publication. Your suggestions and comments would be very welcome. They should be sent to Jon Hall at the address below.
Dennis TrewinJon Hall
Analysis Branch, Australian Bureau of Statistics
Locked Bag 10, Belconnen, ACT 2616. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org