1002.0 - Australian Statistics Advisory Council - Annual Report, 2019-20  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/10/2020   
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Photo: The Chairperson of ASAC Professor Gary Banks AO
The Chairperson of ASAC,
Professor Gary Banks AO
The latter part of 2019–20 was dominated by disasters that have shaken our society and economy. The bushfires, and especially the COVID-19 pandemic, have placed demands on governments and citizens rarely experienced outside wartime. Crafting effective policies in such unusual circumstances is highly challenging, with a need for speed testing established systems designed for ‘business as usual’.

This applies in particular to information sources and systems, on which effective decision-making relies. To be useful, information needed to monitor and evaluate key impacts, and thus to devise effective solutions, may need to be more granular than usual and available in as close to ‘real time’ as possible. These imperatives from the crisis have seen the ABS step up with a number of innovations and changes to its economic and other statistics that have been warmly commended by ASAC members. These were facilitated in part by investments in technological and system ‘transformation’ undertaken over recent years.

Some of the recent statistical enhancements have been achieved in partnership with other agencies, reaffirming the benefits that coordination and cooperation can bring. Instances of productive cooperation have also shown the potential gains from the ABS assuming a leadership role within the national statistical landscape. And, as emphasised by ASAC in previous reports, it has underlined the importance of ensuring that the ABS is adequately resourced on a permanent basis.

This annual report provides a brief account of ASAC’s role and activities over the past financial year and areas of focus in 2020–21. The periodic meetings of the Council are central to its work and I thank members for their insightful contributions and their diligence in attending (including, by necessity, via a teleconference in May). On behalf of Council members, I would also like to thank the ASAC secretariat for its support throughout the year.

Finally, I should note that the Council was pleased to welcome Dr David Gruen, the recently appointed Australian Statistician, as an ex-officio member of ASAC. David had previously been a member of ASAC when Deputy Secretary at Treasury.

Professor Gary Banks AO