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Chapter 3 - The Year Ahead
Given the continuing financial constraints applying to the ABS, 2004-05 will undoubtedly be a challenging year for the ABS. In that environment the role of ASAC in advising the Statistician and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer on statistical priorities for the ABS will be paramount.
As such, the ABS forward work program will continue to be the key consideration for Council. In that regard Council is very cognisant of the demands on the ABS for new or better statistics on a wide range of topics to help shed light on difficult and complex issues. Topics of interest will continue to be issues such as ageing population, social capital and well being, the environment and factors influencing productivity. To address these demands the ABS will have to continue to identify and explore ways of working smarter. However, as noted elsewhere, it is Council's view that such initiatives are likely to only partly address the demands, and Council considers that there is a good case to be made for additional budgetary appropriation to the ABS so as to better address the legitimate needs of users.
In terms of working smarter, an important issue for the ABS in 2004-05, and one in which Council will take a keen interest, will be the further development and implementation of the National Statistical Service (NSS). Council has been a strong proponent of the NSS and while there may be some high up-front costs it has the potential to greatly increase the longer term statistical base through coordinating and harnessing the rich administrative datasets and statistical effort of other agencies. A particular development, the National Data Network, which commenced to take shape in 2003-04 and is envisaged as a major supporting infrastructure for the NSS will be a topic of interest to Council in 2004-05. ABS efforts to obtain stakeholder support and establish key partnerships will also be closely monitored by Council.
In 2004-05, Council will continue to provide advice in relation to the Bureau's major statistical collection activity, the Census of Population and Housing, and in particular will review the proposed Census Output Strategy. Particular aspects of interest to Council will be the strategy for disseminating census information via the ABS website and the developments and scope for additional flexibility of output data using geo-referencing and Mesh Blocks, a geographical unit smaller than the current census collection district. Council also notes that the possibility of linking census data to other data has been canvassed in ABS Views on Content and Procedure and that investigations and focus group testing of community acceptance are currently being undertaken. Council looks forward to considering the outcomes of those investigations and the resulting ABS proposals. A key factor recognised by both ABS and Council in considering this issue in 2003-04 was the need for transparency of procedures and protocols.