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PERFORMANCE REPORT - ANNUAL PERFORMANCE STATEMENT
Most years, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) assesses Australia’s observance of its Special Data Dissemination Standards. These standards provide an accepted benchmark for the main economic and population indicators for subscribing countries.
Results: Target met.
The most recent IMF Country Report on Australia was published in February 2017 and it noted that:
2016-17 ANALYSIS OF PERFORMANCE AGAINST PURPOSE
The ABS continues to fulfil its purpose of providing trusted official statistics on a wide range of economic, social, population and environmental matters of importance to Australia (Target 2.2). Fulfilling the purpose of the ABS means that governments, businesses and the community are better informed to discuss, research and make decisions, which enhances the wellbeing of all Australians.
The outage of the online form on Census night in August 2016 resulted in an increase in negative media sentiment. This is reflected in the below-target results for Target 1.2. Rebuilding public and stakeholder confidence and trust in the ABS, and applying the lessons learned in 2016 to planning for the 2021 Census, are major focus areas for the ABS. Strengthening partnerships is also a high priority for the ABS, and throughout 2016-17, the ABS engaged with stakeholders (Target 1.3) to understand their requirements. The next assessment of stakeholder satisfaction with the ABS is due in 2017-18.
A key priority of the ABS has been to continue to deliver high quality, timely statistics on important matters. The frequency, timeliness, coverage and relevance of key macroeconomic and population statistics has been maintained (Target 1.1). The management of statistical risk has improved: key ABS statistical collections now have Risk Management Plans (Target 1.4). New statistical releases created through data integration continue to increase in use (Target 2.3).
The ABS continues its efforts to reduce red tape and burden for providers (Target 3.1 and Target 3.2). Fewer business survey providers than expected reported using the electronic form in 2016-17. This is mainly due to the running of the five yearly Agricultural Census, as the agricultural sector has a lower propensity to complete surveys online (Target 3.3).
The ABS operates in a dynamic environment and is being challenged to deliver the best statistical program possible, given the resourcing allocated. The ABS is committed to major changes to better meet the requirements of stakeholders and is transforming across six dimensions of environment, strategy, governance, people, culture and infrastructure. The ABS is implementing new statistical infrastructure which is delivering benefits to users (Target 4.1 and 4.2). ABS people and culture have been enhanced through training courses developed and rolled out to staff (Target 4.3 and Target 4.4), as well as other initiatives.
Relevant and Complete
These performance measures revolve around ABS statistical solutions informing decision makers, researchers and discussion by governments, business and the community, which is relevant to its purpose. This performance information when read as a whole shows how the ABS purpose is being achieved.
Overall, information sources for each measure are fit-for-purpose. Methodologies and processes have been documented. For some measures methodologies need to be strengthened or targets better defined to ensure the results are verifiable. The ABS has a rolling internal audit program which includes examining measures in the performance statement. In 2016-17, three performance measures were audited and the ABS has been improving its approach based on feedback gained from these audits.
CASE STUDY 1: USING BLADE TO PROVIDE NEW INSIGHTS INTO THE BENEFITS OF BUSINESS RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT - A COLLABORATION WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF INDUSTRY, INNOVATION AND SCIENCE AND SWINBURNE UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY
Australian businesses spent nearly $19 billion on research and development activities in 2013-14. The flow on impact of this investment to third parties, not undertaking research and development, is of considerable interest to policy agencies and researchers.
Flow on impact includes productivity improvements resulting from reuse of process innovations, reduced costs of products for consumers through adoption of innovations, and the adaption of research and development by other industries for new uses (for example, technology developed for radar being reused in microwave ovens). The value of this benefit is often referred to as business research and development spillovers.
In 2016, the ABS, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS) and Swinburne University of Technology undertook work to assess the value of business research and development spillovers to the economy. This project was undertaken using the ABS’s Business Longitudinal Analysis Data Environment (BLADE).
Analysis was undertaken using ABS Business Expenditure on Research and Development survey data, Research and Development Tax Incentive Program data from DIIS, and business income tax return and business activity statement data from the Australian Taxation Office. The data was combined and confidentialised by the ABS and made securely available through the BLADE.
The data in BLADE allowed longitudinal analysis using the population of businesses receiving research and development tax incentives in Australia. Analysis was undertaken by industry sector and business size, and included analysis of the beneficiaries of research and development expenditure. The research produced improved estimates of the value of research and development spillovers in Australia. DIIS plan to release a report based on the research in November 2017.
This has been pioneering work delivering new data models, which can be reused by policy agencies and researchers in future. Antonio Balaguer (DIIS) said “this collaborative project makes a great contribution to close the gap to improve evidence for innovation policy.” Professor Beth Webster (Swinburne University of Technology) also acknowledged that “access to a large number of firm-level observations via BLADE puts Australia on the frontier of business research and allows researchers to estimate, with greater precision and nuance, the main drivers of economic growth.”
The project also demonstrates a model for future partnerships between government departments and the university sector for research directly relevant to current policy initiatives, such as the current Research and Development Tax Incentive Program.
Future analysis of this type, using integrated confidentialised data in the BLADE, will allow for the use of existing data in policy design and program evaluation. It is one of a number of ways the ABS is engaging with partners to improve the value and use of integrated data.
CASE STUDY 2: THE MULTI-AGENCY DATA INTEGRATION PROJECT (MADIP)
The Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP) is a partnership between the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian Taxation Office, the Department of Education and Training, the Department of Health, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Social Services. The project is in an evaluation phase and has brought important national datasets together to explore how to make better use of existing public data for policy analysis, research, and statistical purposes.
The MADIP has securely linked existing Medicare, government payments, personal income tax, and 2011 Census data. The linked data has enabled analyses of socio-economic outcomes and trends to inform policy and program development. The case study below showcases the type of new policy insights which can be discovered by bringing together data assets from across the Government.
Dr Steven Kennedy
Deputy Secretary, Innovation & Transformation, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Privacy and security
The privacy and confidentiality of personal information is maintained through strong legislative protections as well as best practice data management. MADIP data can only be accessed via secure systems, and access is restricted to approved users for approved purposes. The MADIP complies with the Privacy Act 1988 and with the legislative responsibilities of each party. MADIP data has the added protection of the Census and Statistics Act 1905, which requires that no data is released in a manner that is likely to enable an individual to be identified.
Looking to the future
Evaluation of the project to date has demonstrated the potential value of linking existing public data. Streamlining data sharing and access arrangements can enable greater efficiencies, and inform decision making within government and the community.
The evaluation of the MADIP has noted that additional data, particularly longitudinal data, would be extremely useful for policy analysis, research and statistical purposes. It has also noted that there would be a considerable benefit in broadening access to integrated public data in a manner that maintains the confidentiality of individuals.
The next steps are to complete the evaluation of the MADIP and build on the lessons from this feasibility phase by putting in place arrangements that make better use of existing public data, safely and securely. This will contribute to the development of enduring statistical data assets under the Data Integration Partnership for Australia initiative.
Case study: Investigating patterns of Medicare expenditure for Age Pension recipients
Government policy objective: To improve older Australians’ access to health care services by understanding the geographic patterns of Medicare use.
Mapping linked 2011 Census and Medicare data from MADIP has provided new insights into health care costs and revealed regional differences in health service use by older Australians.
Geospatial analysis of average Medicare expenditure by Age Pension recipients was undertaken to identify expenditure patterns by region (see Figures 1 and 2). The analysis showed that major population centres have high Medicare expenditure per capita, but also that regional and remote areas in NSW (such as the Mid North Coast and the Far West, respectively) have significantly higher expenditure per capita than such areas in the other States and Territories. These findings can help inform policy and support the allocation of resources to the people and places that need it most.
The Multi-Agency Data Integration Project is one of these integration projects.”
Hon. Angus Taylor, MP
Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation
Across Australia, Medicare services are used by more Age Pension recipients living in the major population centres of each state and territory than those in regional and remote areas.
These maps of Sydney and Melbourne illustrate the further variations in the use of Medicare Services within capital cities. In Sydney (Figure 1), older Australians on the Age Pension make high use of Medicare Services. By contrast, in Melbourne (Figure 2), the use of Medicare services by older Australians on the Age Pension varies considerably from suburb to suburb.
This analysis demonstrates how the better use of existing public data can help inform the development of health policy and the allocation of health care resources to improve older Australians’ access to health care services.
These findings could shed light on policy issues around access to health services and service provision issues such as overprovision, prevalence of health conditions, and demographic factors which warrant further investigation.
CASE STUDY 3: EXPERIMENTAL LAND ACCOUNTS - A COLLABORATION WITH GEOSCIENCE AUSTRALIA
Governments need reliable information about changes in the use, condition and value of land in Australia, and how this relates to broader economic activity and the state of our environment. This information is used in policy making and spending decisions in land management and economic development. Statistical organisations are well placed to provide this vital information by integrating geospatial and environmental data with a range of economic indicators.
The ABS uses the UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) Central Framework to guide the production of data concerning the environment and economy. Land Accounts form the foundation of all environment-economic accounts, and the ABS has produced a series of Experimental Land Accounts across several jurisdictions in Australia. Rather than collecting the required data itself, the ABS sources and integrates data from a number of government organisations to produce these Land Accounts.
An important input to Land Accounts is data about land cover, both the biophysical cover and the built environment. In recent decades, Earth observation from satellites and other sources has enhanced our ability to consistently observe and monitor the environment. Earth observations are more than merely pictures of the Earth - the data they contain can tell us about the Earth’s surface, waters and atmosphere. Through the application of geoscientific expertise and capabilities the raw satellite observations can be used to detect and map land cover.
Geoscience Australia (GA) is the lead agency in the Australian Government providing Earth observation services, expert advice and capabilities, and information for decision makers. The ABS works in partnership with GA to realise the value of geospatial data and Earth observations to enhance the production of official statistics in Australia. A combination of high level engagement and technical collaboration has strengthened a productive and mutually beneficial inter-agency relationship. This partnership has been critical in ensuring that GA’s Dynamic Land Cover Data (DLCD), a consistent national dataset of land cover, has been available for the production of Experimental Land Accounts.
The use of the DLCD time-series in Land Accounts provides a “line of sight” between Earth observation data produced by GA and the information available to policy makers via statistical products produced by the ABS. This has motivated GA to continue the production of DLCD, and GA has worked closely with the ABS on the release of a new version of DLCD for Australia. This new data became available in time for the preparation of the ‘Land Account: Queensland, Experimental Estimates, 2011-2016’ publication by the ABS, which was released in June 2017.
The ABS and GA are collaborating further on a demonstration of the use of products derived from the Landsat imagery time-series in Digital Earth Australia to produce official statistics on land condition across Australia. The results of this work are due to be released in an ABS environmental-economic accounting publication in 2017-18.
Program Director, Digital Earth Australia, National Earth and Marine Observations Branch, Geoscience Australia
CASE STUDY 4: MAKING A DIFFERENCE - THE ABS DATALAB
Detailed statistical data is becoming easier to access for a growing number of users across Australia through the ABS Data Laboratory (DataLab). The DataLab provides secure access to detailed microdata - the specific variables recorded for each individual respondent - to authorised users for research, policy and statistical research purposes. Initially limited to physical on-site access, DataLab now provides users with virtual access to ABS microdata.
Access to ABS microdata in the DataLab maintains confidentiality and protects privacy, and assesses disclosure risk using the ‘Five Safes Framework’. All users sign a legally binding undertaking to use the microdata in an appropriate way. They also undertake mandatory training and all outputs are checked by ABS staff prior to release from the secure IT environment. This enables the ABS to provide users with access to detailed microdata files safely and securely and help them make the most effective use of data.
Over 350 people from 40 different organisations have been trained to use the DataLab. These include a growing number of staff from a range of Australian, state and territory governments, as well as a steady stream of academic researchers.
The DataLab is also enabling the ABS to provide leadership across government in data sharing and collaboration via a Trusted Access Model. This model ensures that effective, secure and mutually beneficial access to detailed microdata is managed through partnerships based on the trustworthiness and capability of users, as well as the protections of the data and delivery system.
Heather Crawford is an experienced data analyst and social researcher from the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University. She had been a long time user of the physical DataLab, but was frustrated by the inconvenience of having to visit an ABS office to do her work and the lack of up-to-date statistical analysis tools.
The ABS improved Heather’s user experience by providing her with up-to-date versions of analytical software and allowing virtual access to the DataLab from her own office. These changes improved the timeliness of analytical results and have enabled Heather to undertake more in-depth analysis.
One example of how Heather has used the DataLab to help inform policy through data analysis relates to the closure of the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme in 2015.
For over 30 years, the CDEP scheme had offered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with an alternative to welfare. Heather’s use of the DataLab under-pinned her contributions to the 2016 ANU research publication ‘Better than welfare? Work and livelihoods for Indigenous Australians after CDEP.’ The publication has helped policy makers understand the consequences of the closure the CDEP scheme and provided them with an evidence base from which to develop future policy reforms that are better than CDEP in generating improved livelihood options for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This in-depth analysis would not have been possible without the DataLab.
CASE STUDY 5: WORKING WITH DATA61 TO IMPROVE THE NATIONALMAP
The ABS is empowering other organisations to source ABS statistics using their own tools, helping to fulfil the ABS vision of unleashing the power of statistics for a better Australia.
NationalMap, hosted by the data.gov.au website, offers a platform for discovering and visualising a broad range of government and non-government datasets across various geographies of Australia.
CSIRO’s Data61 has been working with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to improve the usability, functionality and interactivity of NationalMap.
In 2016-17, the ABS collaborated with Data61 to develop a better way to provide ABS statistics directly to NationalMap, enhancing its functionality. This included increasing the amount of ABS data available and ensuring that NationalMap can always display the latest ABS statistics - without having to be manually updated.
These improvements were made possible by upgrades to the ABS’s Data Services in September 2016 that included a new developer-friendly data format, SDMX-JSON, that allows our external users to directly source ABS statistics.
The NationalMap platform has a number of features to maximise the use of ABS data:
The cross-government collaboration between Data61 and ABS has been mutually beneficial and is an example of how agencies can work together to enhance the usability of government services for the Australian public.
Arthur Street, Senior Software Engineer from Data61 was responsible for the project and remarked “ABS has made an incredibly rich and varied range of data available via its SDMX API. As a result we have been able to add lots of new datasets to NationalMap.gov.au - from population forecasts in 2036, to where the most fruit and nut orchards are - which we expect will be put to lots of interesting new uses.”
The use of ABS Data Services ensures the latest ABS statistics are always available through NationalMap as well as other platforms in the future. Best of all it extends the scope, use and usefulness of ABS data.
CASE STUDY 6: THE FREIGHT PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT PROJECT - A COLLABORATION WITH THE BUREAU OF INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL ECONOMICS
Since the late 1960s, the amount of road freight in Australia has increased tenfold: from just over 20 billion tonne-kilometres a year, to over 200 billion tonne-kilometres in 2015-16. Building a better understanding of road freight movements in Australia helps to identify road infrastructure bottlenecks and establish priorities to better inform road infrastructure investment decisions.
Throughout 2016 the ABS partnered with the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) to investigate new ways of collecting and analysing road freight statistics as part of the Public Sector Data Management Project led by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. This pilot study is known as the Freight Performance Measurement Project.
Road transport in Australia is a highly competitive, efficient, and strongly regulated industry. In a fast growing industry like road freight, a lack of regular, up-to-date information has hindered effective decisions about where and when to invest for both the public and private sectors.
Road freight companies have devices fitted to their vehicles that record GPS coordinates at time-stamped intervals, along with information such as speed and fuel usage. This administrative data, known as telematics, has the potential to provide a less burdensome, more cost-effective and more timely source of road freight statistics in comparison to traditional survey based data collection methods.
The ABS contributed expertise in new data analytics techniques to the project, including further development of GLIDE (endnote 11). GLIDE, an ABS developed platform, allows complex data in a variety of formats and from multiple sources to be linked and analysed in an interactive, visual manner. It provides tools for visualising data in different ways - such as via interactive maps. Using the GLIDE prototype, the project was able to produce freight specific traffic volumes and travel times along major corridors, and then drill down to identify congested freight network locations. GLIDE also enabled the visualisation of infrastructure used by freight vehicles, such as key freight routes and truck stops.
The Freight Performance Measurement Project has demonstrated the feasibility of using freight vehicle telematics data to provide regular road freight statistics and has shown the utility of GLIDE to identify congested road freight network locations and calculate average travel times on major freight routes.
Dr Gary Dolman of BITRE said “For BITRE, the joint collaboration with ABS on the Freight Performance Measurement Project, helped better identify and engage with key stakeholders, and lent more authority and credibility to the project when discussing with external stakeholders. The resources, assistance and support provided by the Emerging Data and Methods Team was invaluable to processing the pilot study sample data and developing preliminary results and effectively communicating those results back to key stakeholders.”
This collaborative project illustrates the value of integrating existing data to produce new information and insights that, in turn, inform important decisions. It is one of a number of current ABS data integration projects being undertaken in partnership with other government agencies using new and emerging statistical techniques.
For more information please see the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Public Sector Data Management Project.
1. ABS Portfolio Budget Statement is contained in Budget 2016-17 - Portfolio Budget Statements 2016-17 - Budget Related Paper No. 1.16 - Treasury Portfolio.
2. The ABS purpose was slightly modified in August 2016 and is listed under Performance Monitoring and Reporting (page 24) in the ABS Corporate Plan 2016-17 (cat. no. 1005.0), which is available on the ABS website.
3. The IMF monitors developments in its member countries, as well as at regional and global levels, to ascertain potential sources of economic and financial instability. This process is known as surveillance.
4. Based on assessment of 3033 articles in a number of key media outlets citing ABS statistics (identified through a contracted media monitoring service).
5. The Australian Bureau of Statistics Act (1975) stipulates that the Australian Statistics Advisory Council must meet at least once in every calendar year (section 22(1)). The Council will meet three times in the 2017 calendar year.
6. As indicated by the historical data in Figure 4.1, this result is largely due to 2016-17 being an Agricultural Census year. This collection is conducted once every five years. For the current reporting year (2016-17), the Agricultural Census resulted in approximately 103,000 hours of provider load.
7. Year on year comparisons should be treated with caution due to the cyclical nature of significant collections, such as the Agricultural Census, which is conducted every five years.
8. The appetite for web self-response varies across business survey providers. Some industries, particularly those in scope for agricultural collections, have a lower propensity to complete surveys online.
9. The population is defined as all Australian Usual Residents (excluding overseas visitors) who had the opportunity to complete an online household form. The population used excludes people that were counted in the Census through Interviewer Household Forms, Special Short Forms and in non-private dwellings, as they may not have had the opportunity to participate online. The population used accounts for 95.7% of the total responding population and 96.8% of the responding Usual Resident population.
10. This target refers to actions from the ABS 2015 & 2016 People and Culture Action Plan and the ABS 2017 & 2018 People and Culture Action Plan as there was no People and Culture Action Plan for the 2016-17 financial year.
11. Graphically-Linked Information Discovery Environment.
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