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ABS AT A GLANCE
• transforming the ABS for the future
• delivering new statistical solutions to maximise the value of public data.
WHAT WE DO
The ABS also has an important leadership role, coordinating statistical activities and collaborating with official bodies in the collection, compilation, analysis and distribution of statistics. In addition, the ABS provides technical advice and assistance to the Australian and state and territory governments in relation to statistics, develops standards for statistics, and helps to ensure compliance with those standards.
The ABS Corporate Plan, outlining the ABS purpose, strategic priorities, operating environment and performance measures, can be found on the ABS website at www.abs.gov.au.
Maintaining the support of authorising entities including the Government, government agencies, and regulatory authorities is critical for the ABS to achieve its purpose. Equally important for our ability to deliver high quality statistics is the maintenance of social licence. The ABS relies on business and the community to provide critically important data. Any actions by the ABS or other entities that erode the trust of providers directly undermine our efforts to collect this data.
ABS success relies upon demonstrating to the community and business that we can be trusted to protect their data and deliver reliable statistical information.
Our commitment to strong partnerships with our stakeholders is central to our ability to deliver. This commitment drives the ABS to find innovative ways to work with providers to inform our work while also guiding us in the identification of relevant statistical information that is of real value to their business. We have continued to seek ways to more effectively use the wealth of existing government and non-government information to more efficiently deliver insights, and reduce provider burden on business and households as much as possible.
Noting the increasing importance of privacy in light of well publicised breaches by both public and private sector entities, the ABS has continued to put considerable effort into maintaining the secrecy of the information provided to us, as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905, while also ensuring that we meet the additional requirements of the Privacy Act 1988. It is worth noting that there has never been a privacy breach of Census data.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 and the Census and Statistics Act 1905 sets 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:
• 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:
• 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 Census and Statistics Regulation 2016 prescribes the types of statistical information that the ABS is authorised to collect and other administrative matters permitted by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.
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; and is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982, Privacy Act 1988 and the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013.
The Statistics Determination 1983 enables the ABS to release detailed statistical information to a wide range of users for analysis and input into the decision-making processes of governments, businesses and individuals.
The Treasury and the ABS undertook a remake of the Statistics Determination 1983 as it is subject to a sunset clause on 1 October 2018.
The remake will enable this legislation to better meet the needs of users by providing a more enabling framework for the safe and secure release of information: specifically, detailed statistical information pertaining to businesses and organisations. Commitments to the confidentiality of personal information have been retained.
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 2018, 41 matters were referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration due to persons failing to comply with a Notice of Direction. These matters are progressing through the courts.
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 has been fundamentally transforming across all aspects of the organisation since 2015. 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 meets user requirements in a variety of formats. The ABS is supported by statistical, corporate and data services that enable the organisation to deliver relevant, trusted, objective data, statistics and insights.
Please see the ABS Organisational Structure for information on the current ABS staffing structure.
AUSTRALIAN STATISTICS ADVISORY COUNCIL
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.
The mission of the Council 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.
Further information on ASAC, including its annual report, can be found at www.asac.gov.au.
Changes in Council membership and Secretary
The past year has seen a number of changes to Council membership and the appointment of a new Council Secretary.
The Council welcomed the appointment of a new senior representative from the government of the Australian Capital Territory – Mr Stephen Miners, Deputy Under Treasurer. Community representation on the Council increased with the appointment of Mr David Byers (Minerals Council of Australia) and Professor Abigail Payne (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research), and the reappointment of Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver AM (Western Sydney University) in April 2018.
In June 2018, Dr Phillip Gould stepped down as Secretary after two years in the role. Dr Gould has left the ABS to take up a position in the new Office of the National Data Commissioner within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Dr Gould was replaced by Mr Stephen Collett, who is the Program Manager of Education, Crime & Culture Statistics, Head of the ABS’s Melbourne Office and an ABS Reconciliation Champion.
Australian Statistics Advisory Council - February 2018
ABS PORTFOLIO BUDGET STATEMENT OUTCOME AND PROGRAM
2. maintain relevant and fit-for-purpose ABS statistical outputs by actively engaging with external stakeholders to understand their needs
3. maximise the value of public data through increasing safe access to ABS microdata holdings and unlocking the potential of data sources by integrating data to create new datasets for statistical, policy and research purposes
4. continue to transform ABS business systems and processes to improve their efficiency and the accessibility of information, and expand the range of statistical solutions available to users
5. deliver results of the 2016 Census of Population and Housing and apply the lessons learned from 2016 to planning for the 2021 Census.
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