The pervasive challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic dominated 2020–21 and had significant implications for the role and work of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The Council congratulates the ABS on the way it responded to demands for information to gain a better understanding of the impacts of the pandemic and devise policy responses. There have been significant innovations both in the sourcing of data and to enable its timely release, as noted in this annual report.
The effectiveness of its response at such a critical time has demonstrated not only the capabilities of the ABS, but also the potential of its contribution. This in turn has seen a further increase in demand for its services. A welcome increase in core funding in the last budget should enable the ABS to respond in part without detracting from other essential activities. But some tension among competing priorities will remain and the Council will continue to do what it can to offer advice and support.
A consequence of the pandemic has been increased recognition of the importance to the ABS of its engagement with stakeholders and the fostering of partnerships with other bodies, both in the public and private domains, and cross jurisdictions. Such interactions have enhanced the relevance and utility of the institution, and thus its public value, without impinging on its essential independence and high standards.
This annual report provides a brief account of ASAC’s role and activities over the past year, and identifies future areas of focus. The constraints of the pandemic meant that Council meetings were predominantly conducted online rather than in person. I thank members very much for their cooperation and for their significant contributions during the year. On behalf of the Council, I would also like to thank the ASAC secretariat for its continuing support.
Professor Gary Banks AO
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