1001.0 - Australian Bureau of Statistics -- Annual Report, Report on ABS performance in 2015-16  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 13/10/2016   
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Unleashing the power of statistics for a better Australia


The ABS is Australia's official national statistical agency, with a long history of providing statistics to inform decisions on issues of importance to Australia. The Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics was established over 100 years ago, following enactment of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. This agency became the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 1975 with the passing of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975. This Act also established the role of the Australian Statistician and defined the functions of the ABS.


The ABS is a trusted provider of information for Australia. The ABS maintains the confidentiality of the individuals and businesses whose information it collects while it strives to make its statistics as accessible and useful as possible. Each year the ABS releases a large number of statistical products covering the economy, society, environment and the population.

The ABS also has an important coordination function with respect to the statistical activities of other official bodies, both in Australia and overseas.


The ABS has nine offices, eight located in each state and territory capital city, and a new office in Geelong. Ongoing engagement with state and territory governments on statistical priorities is achieved at the local level through a Strategic Partnership Manager – an ABS staff member seconded (in part) to a line agency of each state or territory government. Primary responsibility for the delivery of statistical services to each state or territory is managed through relevant subject matter areas, with support from local Strategic Partnership Managers.

In April 2016 the ABS opened the National Data Acquisition Centre and continued a partnership with cutting-edge research institution Deakin University in Geelong. ABS’s purpose-built office will be the central data collection point for all ABS business and household surveys.


The ABS Corporate Plan outlining the ABS's vision, strategic direction, strategic priorities, objectives and ABS's transformation agenda can be found on the ABS website at www.abs.gov.au .


For over 100 years, the ABS has contributed to the wellbeing of Australians and to Australia’s democracy by providing high quality statistical information to governments, researchers and the community.

The ABS operates in a dynamic environment. New opportunities for accessing and interrogating a vast amount of administrative, transactional and other data are becoming available, increasing the potential to provide new insights into matters of importance to Australians. The statistical landscape is becoming more complex, expectations of decision makers are growing, and the ABS is being challenged to deliver the best possible statistical program in more efficient and innovative ways.

In response to these opportunities and challenges, and informed by the Government’s Statement of Expectations, recommendations from the 2013 Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) Capability Review of the ABS, and engagement with key stakeholders, the ABS is undergoing major transformation (2015–16 to 2019–20). The Government’s announcement in the 2015–16 Budget of a major investment in the ABS to modernise its systems and processes is a critical enabler for the wide-reaching transformation agenda being pursued by the ABS. This transformation encompasses how the ABS operates as an organisation, both internally and as part of the wider information community; its statistical infrastructure; its people and culture; and the statistical solutions it delivers.

Statistics, well understood and wisely used, have the power to improve outcomes for Australia. The transformation is key to achieving the ABS vision of unleashing the power of statistics for a better Australia.


The ABS is an agency under the Treasury Portfolio. During 2015–16, the Hon. Kelly O’Dwyer, MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer and Federal Member for Higgins, continued to be the Minister responsible for the ABS until September 2015 when she became the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Small Business. At that time Alex Hawke, MP, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer and Federal Member for Mitchell took over responsibility for the ABS.


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.

There were no amendments made to the Census and Statistics Act 1905 or the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 during 2015–16.

The ABS is also subject to by 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 requirements of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, the Freedom of Information Act 1982, the Privacy Act 1988 and the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013.


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

The ABS produces a range of economic and population statistics. The production of these statistics involves extensive data collection through censuses and surveys as well as from administrative and other transactional data sources. We undertake extensive analysis and interpretation of the data to ensure the statistics meet user requirements. The ABS also provides data in a variety of formats. The ABS's statistical collection, production and dissemination programs are supported by 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 and other corporate services.

The full version of the Annual Report available under the 'downloads' tab shows the ABS organisation chart as at 30 June 2016. For the current organisation chart please refer to the ABS website: abs.gov.au


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 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.

The Australian Statistics Advisory Council's mission

The Council’s mission, in keeping with its statutory charter, is to ensure the advice furnished to the Minister responsible for the ABS and the Statistician, in relation to the collection and dissemination of statistics, has due regard to the relative priorities, is objective, relevant, timely, constructive and practical, and is sensitive to the needs of both suppliers and users of statistical data.

Blue sky workshop: Over the Horizon: digital disruption, megatrends and the future of official statistics

In addition to the scheduled ASAC meetings in 2016 a workshop was held on 20 June 2016. Members participated in a blue sky workshop titled ‘Over the Horizon: digital disruption, megatrends and the future of official statistics’. The workshop included additional guests from government, academia and the private sector. It discussed issues that may impact the future of information and how these may affect the production and use of data 20 years into the future, and beyond.

The themes and discussion confirmed the strength of momentum and uncertainty arising from digital disruption. It was very useful to hear the views of others and how these will inform ASAC deliberations and ABS future directions.

Further information on ASAC including its annual report can be found at www.asac.gov.au.


ABS outcome

In the Portfolio Budget Statements 2015–16, 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.

ABS 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 above 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 – provides an objective source of information used by governments and the community to inform their decisions. The provision of statistics involves extensive data collection through censuses, surveys and from administrative data sources.

Program 1.1 deliverables

In 2015–16 the ABS:

  • provided a range of quality and timely statistical outputs across key economic, population and social subject matter areas that meet the needs of key users
  • improved the relevance, reliability and accuracy of the ABS statistical program by actively engaging with external stakeholders to understand their needs and implementing ongoing methodological developments and statistical standards
  • partnered with Australian governments and other key stakeholders to ensure development and coherence of our national statistical system
  • integrated data, as a Commonwealth integrating authority, to produce new official statistics to inform society
  • reduced respondent burden through implementation of electronic forms and using alternative data sources where possible instead of surveys
  • provided advice and guidance on the development and implementation of statistical standards and frameworks internationally
  • undertook statistical capability development programs in Australia and the Indo–Pacific region
  • provided leadership in data integration by providing both the chair and secretariat services to the Cross Portfolio Data Integration Oversight Board
  • continued to transform the ABS’s business systems and processes in a digital environment to improve the efficiency and accessibility of the ABS’s services, ensuring a central role in Australia’s long-term statistical sustainability
  • prepared to deliver a primarily digital Census in 2016.

The ABS statistical programs are supported by service and infrastructure areas that deliver assistance and advice on statistical methods, data and metadata management, information technology, client management, dissemination, human resources and other corporate services.