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PURPOSE AND ROLE OF THE AUSTRALIAN BUREAU OF STATISTICS
However, 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 we are 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 our key stakeholders, the ABS will continue to undergo major transformation over the next four years. This transformation encompasses how we operate as an organisation, both internally and as part of the wider information community; our statistical infrastructure; our people and culture; and the statistical solutions we deliver. The Government’s announcement in the 2015–16 Budget of a major investment in the ABS to modernise our systems and processes is a critical enabler for the wide reaching transformation agenda being pursued by the ABS.
The ABS is engaging and collaborating to build statistical solutions and capability, leveraging data sources held by partners to expand the scope of official statistics and reduce the burden on respondents, while protecting the confidentiality of information provided to the ABS. The value of ABS data will be enhanced through integration and by improving the accessibility of ABS data and microdata.
Statistics, well understood and wisely used, have the power to improve outcomes for Australia. Our transformation is the key to achieving our vision of unleashing the power of statistics for a better Australia.
The ABS is Australia’s national statistical agency, providing trusted official statistics on a wide range of economic, social, population and environmental matters of importance to Australia.
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. This assists in maximising the value of government investment on these activities, and ensures outputs are fit-for-purpose.
Through delivery of high quality official statistics and value-added statistical solutions, we aim to inform decisions on important issues. We expect this will lead to a more informed community; more efficient markets, economic growth and productivity enhancements; better policy development and evaluation; and targeted and more efficient service delivery.
Maintaining the trust and support of government, business and the community is critical for the ABS to effectively carry out its functions. This is achieved through engaging with users within government, business and the community to ensure they have confidence in the statistical resources available to enable them to make informed decisions. To preserve the ongoing trust of our respondents and data providers we will continue to maintain the security of the information provided to us; and we will work with others to reduce burden by more effectively using the wealth of existing government and non-government data resources.
The ABS aims to ensure Australia is well served by a responsive, innovative and dynamic statistical system which continues to meet changing information requirements in a cost effective manner. This is achieved by partnering with others across the national statistical system, which embraces statistics and data held by Commonwealth and state and territory agencies, as well as collaborating with non-government organisations, to maximise the value of public and private sector data and enhance insights for informed decision making.
The environment in which the ABS operates is changing, and the ABS recognises the need to transform significantly across all aspects of the organisation if we are to realise our vision of unleashing the power of statistics for a better Australia, and achieve our objectives.
During our transformation, the ABS is continuing to deliver high quality official statistics on a wide range of economic, social, population and environmental matters of importance to Australia – this is central to the purpose and role of the ABS. Delivering a successful 2016 Census of Population and Housing, our largest and one of our most important statistical activities, is a high priority for the ABS. Better utilisation of data collected for administrative purposes and improving the availability and use of Australia’s statistical assets will be a key focus during transformation.
While the ABS is a large information provider, we are not alone in the critical task of collecting and reporting quality statistics for public use. We are strengthening our partnerships to ensure that we are able to effectively meet increasingly complex information needs, including working with others to provide innovative, value-added statistical solutions. Organisations and individuals who provide information are also important partners in the statistical system. At the same time as we increase the statistics available for informed decision making, we are pursuing ways to reduce the burden on respondents and minimise collection costs, while maintaining community trust and protecting the privacy of individuals.
The ABS is driving high performance across all aspects of the organisation. Crafting innovative solutions; capitalising on enabling technologies; and supporting, motivating and equipping staff to perform to their maximum potential, is empowering the ABS to transform successfully for the future.
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:
The Census and Statistics Act 1905:
The ABS has been asked by the Australian Government to consider whether its existing legislative arrangements are suitable for a 21st Century national statistical office. The ABS is currently reviewing its existing legislative arrangements and international arrangements to guide this consideration.
The ABS is governed 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 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.
WORKING ACROSS GOVERNMENT AND SUPPORTING PRIORITIES
The Statement of Expectations for the ABS outlines the Australian Government's expectations of us as we carry out our functions. The Statement recognises the independence of the ABS as a statutory authority, and also recognises the need for the ABS to take into account the Government's broad policy framework in performing our role and meeting our responsibilities.
As part of the Treasury portfolio, the ABS maintains a close relationship with the Treasury, while acting independently and objectively in the performance of its statistical functions and exercising its powers as set out in legislation. The ABS is accountable to the Parliament, and ultimately to the public, through the Treasury Ministers, the Parliamentary Committee process, and tabling of our Annual Report.
The Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC) is the key advisory body to the Minister and the ABS in relation to our statistical functions. ASAC provides valuable input to the directions and priorities for the ABS work program, and reports annually to Parliament. ASAC meets at least twice a year, and Council members are chosen to represent a broad cross-section of perspectives, covering government, business, academic and community interests. All state and territory governments are typically represented.
Collaborative partnerships with Australian, state and territory government agencies contribute to a strong national statistical system. Active engagement and consultation with key stakeholders, including ASAC, to prioritise the annual ABS Forward Work Program ensures we continue to meet Australia’s information requirements now and into the future.
ABS transformation goals take into account the Government’s policy agenda. The ABS is contributing to the Government’s deregulation agenda by looking for opportunities to reduce compliance costs for businesses and the community and contributing to the Government’s $1 billion red and green tape reduction target.
The ABS is supporting the Government’s digital transformation agenda through increasingly using internet based modes of data collection, with the ‘digital first’ 2016 Census of Population and Housing a major initiative; as well as establishing machine-to-machine data provision for businesses.
The ABS is continuing to contribute to whole-of-government discussions aimed at improving the Government’s use of data to inform policy and tailor service delivery through making safe, effective use of data and improved statistical capability, capitalising on ABS expertise in these areas.
SHAPING THE ABS STATISTICAL FORWARD WORK PROGRAM
During 2014 and 2015, in consultation with stakeholders and informed through development of Essential Statistical Assets for Australia (cat. no. 1395.0), components of the ABS statistical program were categorised into four tiers.
These tiers are used to assist with the prioritisation of the ABS work program.
To assist in determining the ABS statistical forward work program, the ABS will continue to engage with governments, users and other stakeholders, including the Australian Statistics Advisory Council, on prioritisation. A work program prioritisation document will be published, including the categorisation outlined above, as part of the ABS ABS Forward Work Program (cat. no. 1006.0).
The ABS demonstrates strong alignment with, and commitment to the APS Values which underpin and guide our decisions, behaviours and interactions with the Government, our partners, stakeholders, respondents and our staff.
Impartial - The APS is apolitical and provides the Government with advice that is frank, honest, timely and based on the best available evidence.
ABS demonstrates this value by providing professional and objective statistical solutions with integrity, which are timely and fit-for-purpose.
Committed to service – The APS is professional, objective, innovative and efficient, and works collaboratively to achieve the best results for the Australian community and the Government.
ABS demonstrates this value by delivering the priority information that Australia needs, being innovative, responsive and agile and by collaborating to maximise the value of public information.
Accountable – The APS is open and accountable to the Australian community under the law and within the framework of Ministerial responsibility.
ABS demonstrates this value by using resources efficiently and effectively, adopting sound statistical methods and transparent practices.
Respectful - The APS respects all people, including their rights and their heritage.
ABS demonstrates this value by engaging with stakeholders and providers in a respectful and professional manner, seeking to minimise respondent burden and valuing diverse perspectives across our workforce and stakeholders.
Ethical - The APS demonstrates leadership, is trustworthy, and acts with integrity, in all that it does.
ABS demonstrates this value by making decisions about priorities and resource use which seek to maximise the public benefit, improving the accessibility of information to all, while protecting the confidentiality of sensitive information provided to us.
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