1001.0 - Australian Bureau of Statistics -- Annual Report, 2016-17  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/10/2017   
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The ABS purpose is to inform Australia’s important decisions by partnering and innovating to deliver relevant, trusted, objective data, statistics and insights.

To achieve our purpose, the ABS is focusing on three priorities to meet Australia’s contemporary and emerging statistical needs over the coming years:

    • providing high quality official statistics
    • transforming the ABS for the future
    • delivering new statistical solutions to maximise the value of public data.

Our highest priority is to deliver high quality official statistics. To ensure that we can deliver relevant, trusted, objective statistics, we are transforming the ABS and partnering with our stakeholders to innovate, develop and implement new statistical solutions.


As the central statistical authority for the Australian Government and provider of statistical services to the states and territories, the ABS seeks to deliver the most public value we can from the resources we receive through:
    • providing the statistical information that Australia needs
    • responding to the changing information priorities of our stakeholders
    • enhancing the ways that we interact with our stakeholders
    • developing and maintaining community trust, which is fundamental to our ability to collect high quality information
    • enabling effective and safe use of our statistics
    • coordinating and advising official bodies on statistics, including developing, and ensuring compliance with, statistical standards
    • fulfilling our role as an Accredited Integrating Authority
    • building our capacity to take advantage of opportunities, such as advances in technology, big data, and use of administrative information for statistical purposes
    • ensuring cost-effective operations, including better utilising existing information, collecting information more efficiently, streamlining processes, and reducing the impact on those who provide statistical information.


The ABS Corporate Plan, outlining the ABS purpose, strategic priorities, operating environment and performance measures, can be found on the ABS website.


Maintaining the trust and support of governments, business, and the community is critical for the ABS to achieve its purpose. We accomplished this through partnering with our stakeholders to innovate and deliver relevant, trusted, and objective statistics. We also sought to preserve the ongoing trust of our survey respondents and data providers by continuing to maintain the secrecy of the information provided to us, as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905, while also ensuring that we met the additional requirements of the Privacy Act 1988. We worked with our government and business stakeholders to reduce respondent burden by more effectively using the wealth of existing government and non-government information to more efficiently deliver insights.


As part of the Treasury portfolio, the ABS maintains a close relationship with the Department of the Treasury and the responsible Minister, the Hon Michael McCormack MP, Minister for Small Business, while acting independently and objectively to provide official statistics and exercise our legislative powers. The Statement of Expectations for the ABS outlines the Australian Government’s expectations of us as we carry out our functions (endnote 1). During 2016-17, the Hon. Alex Hawke, MP, Federal Member for Mitchell and at the time Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, was also the Minister responsible for the ABS from 1 July to mid-July 2016.

Image: Hon. Michael McCormack, MP, Minister for Small Business and Federal Member for Riverina


The Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 and the Census and Statistics Act 1905 set out the primary functions, duties and powers of the ABS.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 establishes the ABS as an independent statutory authority, with Section 6(1) describing the six functions of the ABS as being to:
    • constitute the central statistical authority for the Australian Government and provide services for the state and territory governments
    • collect, compile, analyse and disseminate statistics and related information
    • ensure coordination of the operations of official bodies in the collection, compilation and dissemination of statistics and related information
    • develop standards for statistics and ensure compliance
    • give advice and assistance to official bodies in relation to statistics
    • provide liaison between Australia, other countries and international organisations on statistical issues.

The Census and Statistics Act 1905:
    • empowers the Australian Statistician to collect statistical information on a broad range of demographic, economic, environmental and social topics
    • enables the Australian Statistician to direct a person to provide statistical information, in which case they are legally obliged to do so
    • requires the ABS to publish the results of these statistical collections
    • places a life-long obligation on all ABS officers to maintain the secrecy of information collected under the Act, and provides harsh penalties for those who fail to do so.

The Statistics Regulations 1983 and the Census and Statistics (Census) Regulation 2015 were consolidated to make the Census and Statistics Regulation 2016.

The ABS is subject to the requirements of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, which establishes a coherent system of governance and accountability for public resources, with an emphasis on planning, performance and reporting. The ABS is also subject to the Public Service Act 1999, the principal Act governing the establishment and operation of, and employment in, the Australian Public Service; the Freedom of Information Act 1982, the Privacy Act 1988 and the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013.

Compliance with legislation

In order to encourage compliance with the 2016 Census, 2,951 Notices of Direction to complete the Census were issued pursuant to the Census and Statistics Act 1905. As of 30 June 2017, ten matters were referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration due to persons failing to comply with a Notice of Direction.


The ABS is led by the Australian Statistician - a statutory office established by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975.

To remain relevant and capitalise on the opportunities of a dynamic information environment, the ABS is fundamentally transforming across all aspects of the organisation. Alongside this transformation agenda, the ABS continues to produce a range of economic, industry, population and social statistics to inform Australia’s decision-making. The production of these statistics involves extensive data collection through censuses and surveys as well as from administrative and other transactional data sources. The ABS undertakes extensive analysis and interpretation of the data in order to provide high quality, objective and relevant statistical information that meet user requirements in a variety of formats. The ABS is supported by enabling services, which deliver assistance and advice on statistical collection and compilation methods, data and metadata arrangements, information technology, data acquisition and collection, client management, dissemination, human resources, risk, planning, policy, procurement and other enabling services.

The full version of the Annual Report available under the 'downloads' tab shows the ABS organisation chart as at 30 June 2017. For the current organisation chart please refer to the ABS website.


The Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC) is the ABS's key advisory body and was established by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975. ASAC provides independent advice to the Minister responsible for the ABS and the Australian Statistician on longer-term statistical priorities and other relevant matters. It also reports annually to Parliament.

The Chairperson of the Council is Mr Geoff Allen AM, Director of ACIL Allen Consulting. Members represent a broad cross-section of perspectives, covering: federal, state and territory governments; business; academic; and community interests; and are drawn from across Australia. This diversity of perspectives is one of ASAC’s key advantages in informing ABS’s strategic management and transformation. ASAC also provides valuable input into the directions and priorities of the ABS work program.

As set out in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975, the role of the Council is to advise the Minister and the Australian Statistician in relation to:

    (a) the improvement, extension and coordination 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
    (c) any other matters relating generally to those statistical services.

ASAC mission

The Council’s mission is to contribute to the effective development of Australia’s statistical assets, by providing the Minister and the Australian Statistician with independent, relevant and timely advice on national priorities.

A change in leadership for ASAC

The past year has seen a number of significant changes to Council membership.

In February 2017, Mr Geoff Allen AM stepped down as Chairperson after a tenure of ten years. Over this period, Mr Allen provided passionate advocacy for the work undertaken by the ABS and its role as a leader within the statistical system, including implementation of the Essential Statistical Assets for Australia initiative and leading Council input into the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Data Availability and Use.

Mr Allen was replaced by Professor Gary Banks AO, former Chief Executive and Dean of ANZSOG. Professor Banks brings valuable experience in both government and the private sector, especially as inaugural Chairman of the Productivity Commission. Under Professor Banks’ leadership, the Council’s priorities for the coming year include helping the ABS to strengthen its relationships with stakeholders and taking an active role in shaping the Australian statistical system and its priorities.

The Council has also welcomed the appointment of new senior representatives from the governments of New South Wales and Victoria, and reappointment of the representative from the Queensland government. The representation of all states and territories on the Council is critical to achieving whole-of-government support for improvements to the statistical system.

Further information on ASAC including its annual report can be found on the Australian Statistics Advisory Council website.

Image: Australian Statistics Advisory Council - August 2017


In the Portfolio Budget Statements 2016-17, the ABS has one outcome:
Informed decision-making, research and discussion within governments and the community by leading the collection, analysis and provision of high quality, objective and relevant statistical information.

The ABS’s Portfolio Budget Statement program

Within the context of the Portfolio Budget Statements, Program 1.1 (Australian Bureau of Statistics), the ABS produces and disseminates statistics to meet the outcome.

Economic statistics are produced predominantly from data collected through the ABS business survey program as well as administrative data sources. They include an extensive range of statistical outputs relating to the structure and performance of the Australian economy.

Population and social statistics are produced from data collected through the ABS household survey program as well as administrative data. They include statistical information relating to the Australian population, including census and demographic statistics, as well as information relating to the social and economic wellbeing of the population.

Program 1.1 (Australian Bureau of Statistics) contributes to the outcome through delivery of high quality statistical information to inform Australia’s most important issues and through engaging with users within government, business and the community to ensure they have the confidence in the statistical resources available to enable them to make informed decisions.

Program 1.1 deliverables

In 2016-17, the ABS:

    • provided a range of quality and timely statistical information, including integrated data and microdata, across key economic, population and social subject matter areas that meet the needs of governments, business and the community
    • reduced the burden on respondents by increasing the use of non-survey-based data sources and expanding the use of electronic forms
    • improved the relevance, reliability and accuracy of ABS statistical outputs by actively engaging with stakeholders to understand their needs
    • partnered with Australian governments and other key stakeholders to ensure development and coherence of the national statistical system
    • partnered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to undertake statistical capability development to benefit partners in Asia and the Pacific region
    • provided advice and guidance on the development and implementation of statistical standards and frameworks internationally to assist stakeholders and producers of statistics
    • continued to transform the ABS business systems and processes to improve the efficiency and accessibility and expand the range of statistical solutions to ensure the long term sustainability of the ABS.

1. See the ABS Statements of Expectations and Intent on the ABS Website
2. Minor amendments were made to the Census and Statistics Act 1905 in line with changes to various references of the statute law of the Commonwealth during 2016-17. Minor amendments were also made to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 to enable the repeal of certain provisions of the A.C.T. Self Government (Consequential Provisions) Regulations during 2016-17.