YEAR AHEAD: 2020-21
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing well into this financial year, there will be an ongoing requirement for the ABS to demonstrate agility and leadership. The Council will continue to advise and lend support. Its priorities for 2020–21 accordingly remain similar to the previous year. ASAC’s Statement of Intent for 2020–21 formally sets these out (see '2020–21 ASAC Statement of Intent' section).
ABS WORK PROGRAM
Current levels of funding challenge the ability of the ABS to produce the current range of statistics as well as pursuing development and innovation in the longer term. An increase to the ABS’ base appropriation is seen by the Council as a necessary investment to ensure Australia’s national statistical infrastructure can meet the needs of governments both in the recovery phase and into the future.
As part of this effort, governments and the wider community will require a range of timely economic indicators to inform and evaluate policy responses. The Council considers that the ABS is well positioned to continue to provide and expand such essential indicators and is ready to assist with advice on work prioritisation and opportunities.
The Council strongly supports efforts by the ABS to maintain the high quality of its core statistical products and assure the success of the 2021 Census, while responding to increased demands arising from the pandemic.
2021 CENSUS OF POPULATION AND HOUSING
The Council notes that while a number of Census-related activities have shifted into the 2020–21 year due to the impacts of COVID-19, preparations remain on schedule. The Council will continue to monitor the progress of the 2021 Census as it moves into the operational phase, and receive regular updates from the ABS.
The final report from the ANAO Audit: Planning for the 2021 Census will be made available in the first half of 2020–21, which may provide an opportunity for the Council to be consulted on responses to findings and recommendations.
DATA INTEGRATION AND ACCESS
The Data Integration Partnership for Australia (DIPA), which concluded on 30 June 2020, was a three-year investment designed to maximise the value and use of the Australian Government’s data assets.
A significant part of the ABS’ contribution to DIPA was its collaboration with other agencies to build on existing data integration and linkage capabilities, and to expand key datasets to meet the policy needs of government and the DIPA analytical units. Even with the conclusion of DIPA, conversations on data integration are to continue. The Council is ready to advise the ABS on statistical priorities that may emerge.
The Council also anticipates opportunities to advise the ABS on its role in developing data and transparency legislation led by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
ABS’ ROLE WITHIN AN EVOLVING INSTITUTIONAL LANDSCAPE
The speed and scope of data production continue to increase, with users requiring data that are both more detailed and more timely. ASAC believes that the ABS’ responsiveness to the pressures arising from the pandemic demonstrate its ability to add value into the future.
The Council may advise or assist the ABS on sharing its skills to broaden the expertise of data users around the country, including partnering with the Australian Public Service Commission on the development of the ‘Data Profession’.
The Council has found a consistent appetite among its member jurisdictions and sectors for investment in increased data capability. The Council would like to see the ABS leverage its recent achievements to affirm its position as a leader in the wider data landscape. The Council will seek to assist the ABS to capitalise on opportunities to help build data capability across government.
In addition to wider capability building, the role of the ABS in achieving greater coordination and consistency among institutions engaged in data collection and provision is an issue that the Council is well-placed to consider.
BUILDING AND MAINTAINING COMMUNITY TRUST
Maintaining community trust in the ABS — the support of the community for the work it does — is of critical importance, particularly in the lead up to the 2021 Census and during the response to the present crisis. Relevant areas where the Council may be able to advise or assist include data security, data ethics and stakeholder management, including approaches to consultation and transparency around processes.