1001.0 - Australian Bureau of Statistics - Annual Report, 2017-18  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/10/2018   
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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.


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.


As part of the Treasury portfolio the ABS maintains a close relationship with the Department of the Treasury and the responsible Minister, 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 and our Statement of Intent outlines how we will meet those expectations.1

During 2017–18, the Hon. Michael McCormack MP, Minister for Small Business and Federal Member for Riverina, was the Minister responsible for the ABS until mid-December 2017. The Hon. Michael Sukkar MP, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer and Federal Member for Deakin, was given responsibility for the ABS in early 2018 and retained that responsibility for the remainder of the 2017–18 reporting year.

          Photo: Hon. Michael McCormack MP
          Photo: Hon. Michael Sukkar MP
          Hon. Michael McCormack MP,
          Minister for Small Business and Federal
          Member for Riverina
          Hon. Michael Sukkar MP,
          Assistant Minister to the Treasurer
          and Federal Member for Deakin


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:
    • 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 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.


The Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC) is the ABS’s key advisory body and was established under the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975. In line with its legislated functions, ASAC represents government and community interests by providing independent advice to the Minister responsible for the ABS and to the Australian Statistician on the improvement of Australia’s current statistical services and longer-term statistical priorities.
The Council also reports annually to Parliament.

The Chairperson of the Council is Professor Gary Banks AO, Professorial Fellow at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. ASAC members are drawn from a broad cross-section, including the Australian Government, state and territory governments, business and academia. The Council’s diversity helps shape the advice it provides on the ABS’s strategic management and transformation. ASAC also provides valuable input into the directions and priorities of the ABS work program. The representation of all states and territories on the Council is critical to achieving whole-of-government support for improvements to the statistical system.

As set out in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975, the role of the Council is to advise the Minister and the 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’s mission

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.
    Photo: Australian Statistics Advisory Council from February 2018
    Australian Statistics Advisory Council - February 2018


    The ABS Portfolio Budget Statement outlines a single outcome for the agency:

    Decisions on important matters made by governments, business and the broader community are informed by objective, relevant, and trusted official statistics produced through the collection and integration of data, its analysis, and the provision of statistics.

    The ABS’s program 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.

    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.

    The ABS’s program deliverables for 2017–18 and onwards (as outlined in its Portfolio Budget Statement) are to:

      1. provide a range of statistical outputs, across key economic, population, social and environment subject matter areas that meet the needs of key users in Government, business and community

      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.

    1 https://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/D3310114.nsf/Home/ABS+Statements+of+Expectations+and+Intent?opendocument