1002.0 - Australian Statistics Advisory Council - Annual Report, 2017-18  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/10/2018   
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The Year Ahead: 2018-19

ABS Forward Work Program Prioritisation

The Council supports the broad priorities contained in the ABS’s 2018–19 Forward Work Program, namely:

  • providing official statistics of high quality
  • transforming the ABS to ensure its effectiveness into the future
  • delivering new solutions to maximise the value of public data.

It is clear that the ABS must continue to adapt and innovate if it is to meet the changing needs of governments, business and the community in an increasingly constrained resource environment. Failing significant budgetary supplementation, how it chooses to allocate its diminishing resources will be critical to the public value it provides. Members will continue to lend support to the ABS in relation both to resourcing needs and the prioritisation decisions for statistics and infrastructure, noting that data integration and the use of administrative data have become key elements of the ABS’s business model.

ASAC will also seek to assist the ABS in its development of strategies to manage risk in ways that avoid stifling innovation and collaboration. The Council accepts the need to continue assigning high priority and low tolerance for risk for such key economic statistics as the National Accounts, Consumer Price Index (CPI), Labour Force Statistics and Estimated Resident Population. ASAC is supportive of improvements in the measurement of the labour market – including the release of the first Annual and Quarterly Labour Accounts – and the development of new CPI sources and methods. The Council will engage with its member networks in relation to proposed unfunded work that it believes to be critical, such as moving to a monthly Consumer Price Index.

The Council will also continue to support the ABS in its ongoing efforts to balance the growing needs of stakeholders for access to statistics with legitimate privacy concerns, while meeting budgetary constraints and progressing the transformation program.

2021 Census of Population and Housing

As noted, significant progress has already been made by the ABS in preparing for the 2021 Census. The Council is pleased that learnings from the contrasting experiences of the 2016 Census and the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey are being incorporated in plans for the next Census.

Risk management, resourcing and technology will all require close attention and the Council will continue its discussions with the ABS and provide advice as appropriate. The Chair of the 2016 Census Independent Assurance Panel is also well placed to advise on risk mitigation. The Council notes that while the Australian Government has understandably indicated minimal appetite for risk in relation to this Census, this has significant funding implications which currently are not reflected in the (slightly reduced) budget for the Census.

ASAC has also provided early input to the ABS on Census topics and their prioritisation. Members have emphasised the importance of keeping the Census focused on those areas for which information is required that cannot otherwise be obtained reliably. ASAC will provide further advice on an interim position paper setting out proposed Census topics, which it understands will be released for consultation in November 2018. The Council will also provide advice with respect to the final topic recommendations to Government.

Reform of Australia’s Statistical System

Progressing a range of reforms to Australia’s statistical system remains a core focus for the Council. Members welcomed the Australian Government’s announcement that it would invest $65 million over four years to implement recommendations from the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Data Availability and Use and reform Australia’s data system.

Following the recent establishment of the Office of the National Data Commissioner (NDC), which has the role of implementing and overseeing a new data sharing and release framework, ASAC will continue to champion the wider reform of Australia’s statistical system. The ABS has been commissioned to provide technical advice and assistance to the NDC and the Council will continue to offer guidance on strengthening safeguards around the integrity, management and use of government-held data. It will also closely monitor and contribute, where possible, to NDC initiatives, including the Data Sharing and Release Legislation.

The Council recognises the need to:
  • achieve legislative reform to regulate digital data to enable better sharing and release of data
  • apply a risk-based approach to data sharing and release
  • identify, and invest in, high-value or nationally significant datasets
  • implement data management standards to support increased data availability and use.