1001.0 - Annual Report - ABS Annual Report, 2004-05  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/10/2005   
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ABS Corporate Governance

ABS corporate governance arrangements ensure transparency in decision making, operation and accountability by promoting strong leadership, sound management and effective planning and review. The operations and performance of the ABS are subject to both internal and external scrutiny. The results of this scrutiny inform senior management decisions.

The Policy Secretariat program of the ABS has an important role as a focal point for ABS corporate governance. It supports the effective operation of governance forums, ensures the ABS operates within the scope of its authority and legislative basis, and manages ABS audit, review and risk management activities.

Some of the key ABS corporate governance mechanisms are described below.


Internal scrutiny takes the form of:

  • periodic reviews of statistical collections and service functions. In reviews of statistical collections, external users are widely consulted and, in some instances, external users assist the review team. Internal reviews cover both the effectiveness and efficiency of various ABS activities
  • benchmarking, which is a key part of the ABS strategy to assess the value for money of its statistical outputs, to understand and learn from best practice and to improve performance
  • regular reports from all Assistant Statisticians and Regional Directors to the Executive Meetings
  • an internal audit program conducted by external service providers, covering different facets of ABS operations and overseen by the Audit Committee.
The ABS Risk Management Framework and Guidelines, promulgated in 2004, provides a mechanism for monitoring and identifying shifts in the risk exposure and the emergence of ‘new’ risks. During 2004–05, a program of facilitated risk management workshops was undertaken for 13 key operational areas in order to ensure that risk assessments for these areas were applied consistently and given priority. During the same period, a review of the key enterprise risks resulted in a rationalisation and re-specification of ABS’ key enterprise risks.

As required by the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines, the Australian Statistician has certified that the ABS has prepared appropriate fraud risk assessments and fraud control plans and has in place appropriate fraud prevention, detection, investigation, reporting and data collection procedures and processes that meet the specific needs of the ABS and comply with the guidelines.

An important feature of ABS corporate governance is the role played by senior management committees which are active in developing policies and strategies, identifying ABS priorities, ensuring appropriate planning and implementation to address those priorities and effective monitoring of ABS activities. The major senior management committees are as follows:


Executive Meetings are held weekly and involve the Australian Statistician, the Deputy Australian Statisticians and all First Assistant Statisticians. Regional Directors also provide written input to each meeting. Each Assistant Statistician and Regional Director in the ABS reports to the Executive Meeting in respect of their area of functional responsibility. Their reports cover matters such as significant achievements, indicators of performance, emerging issues, strategies adopted to manage them and resource management. In addition, the meetings address emerging corporate issues.


Management Meetings play a major role in determining ABS strategic directions, priorities and resource allocations. The Management Meeting is held twice a year, and agrees on the ABS forward work program, which is presented to the Australian Statistics Advisory Council for consideration and advice before it is finalised. Each Division and Group report annually to the ABS Management Meeting. ABS Management Meetings involve the Australian Statistician, the Deputy Australian Statisticians, First Assistant Statisticians and Regional Directors. Expert advisers are called as required.


The ABS maintains a comprehensive security framework, overseen by a Protective Security Management Committee. This security framework ensures that both physical and computer security are maintained. The Committee is a key means by which the ABS meets its legal requirement not to divulge identifiable information, and therefore operate with the trust and confidence of data providers. The Committee is chaired by a Deputy Australian Statistician.


The ABS Audit Committee provides assurance to the Australian Statistician that: a comprehensive control framework is in place and working effectively for all business systems; the operation and management of all ABS systems are sufficiently adequate to ensure the ABS complies with all its legislative and other obligations; and externally published information generated by these systems is of appropriate quality and conforms with legislative and other obligations. The Committee identifies significant issues of concern or non-compliance.

The ABS Audit Committee is chaired by Ms Susan Linacre (a Deputy Australian Statistician), and comprises four other ABS officers chosen for their personal qualities, experience and skills including their ability to demonstrate independence on matters before the Committee. Throughout 2004–05 the Committee included one experienced external member, Mr Len Early.

The Committee sets a work program for reviews drawing on the outcomes of risk assessments, fraud control plan, recommendations from ABS managers and the Australian National Audit Office. The work program is undertaken by external audit contractors and covers compliance and risk management issues. A broader review program, involving internal and external reviewers, looks at other issues of efficiency and effectiveness. The Committee meets four times a year and reports to the Executive Meetings as appropriate.

Internal audits undertaken during 2004–05 included reviews of: the Management of Personal Computers and Notebooks; the Census Payroll System; Pre-release of Statistics; Accounts Receivable/Payable; and Clearance Procedures for Non-standard Outputs.


The Information Resources Management Committee considers matters of strategic significance concerning data and information management and related policy, and major issues relating to the application of information and communication technology in the ABS. It also has responsibility for the strategic management of cost recovery activities of the information technology and technology services areas of the ABS. The Committee meets a number of times each year, and reports to each Management Meeting and the Executive Meeting as appropriate. It is chaired by the Deputy Australian Statistician, Population Statistics Group, and consists of the Deputy Australian Statistician, Economic Statistics Group, all First Assistant Statisticians, a nominated Regional Director, and appropriate Assistant Statisticians.


The Human Resource Strategy Committee provides the ABS with high level guidance on key human resource issues. Policy issues that are considered by this Committee include work force planning, staff development and training, remuneration, occupational health and safety, and workplace diversity. The Committee meets several times each year and reports to each Management Meeting and the Executive Meeting as appropriate. It is chaired by the First Assistant Statistician, Corporate Services Division, and involves all First Assistant Statisticians, a nominated Regional Director, and the Assistant Statistician, Business Strategies Branch. In view of the increasing importance of human resource issues, the Australian Statistician will chair this Committee in 2005–06, the two Deputy Australian Statisticians will become members, and the ABS is in the process of extending membership to an external human resource expert.


External scrutiny takes the form of:
  • consideration by the Australian Statistics Advisory Council. The Council is the key advisory body to the ABS and meets twice yearly to provide input to the directions and priorities of the ABS work program. The Council advises the Australian Statistician and the Minister. An annual report is presented to Parliament
  • audits by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), either of ABS operations specifically or as part of cross-agency audits. Audits conducted during 2004–05 by the ANAO which involve the ABS included: Workforce Planning in the Australian Public Service; Forms for Individual Service Delivery; Management and Reporting of Expenditure on Consultants; and Green Office Procurement
  • review of statistical activity by various advisory committees and user groups. These include:
    • standing and ad hoc expert advisory groups comprising key government, business, academic and community representatives. The groups provide advice on statistical priorities and developments in fields such as labour, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and welfare, agriculture, economics, housing, environment, mining, statistical methodology, housing, crime and justice, tourism, transport, research and development
    • user groups established to advise the ABS on the concepts, content and dissemination programs of individual major household surveys
    • Australian, state or territory working groups or committees, often attached to ministerial councils, which provide advice on emerging needs, priorities and areas for cooperation
    • advisory boards established for the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics, the National Centre for Culture and Recreation Statistics, the National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics, the National Education and Training Statistical Unit and the National Centre for Rural and Regional Statistics. The boards provide advice on statistical priorities and data standards and monitor and support the implementation of agreed collections. The forward work program for each statistical centre is agreed between the Australian Statistician and the boards.
There were no adverse comments from the ANAO, the Ombudsman, the courts or the tribunals during 2004–05.

Information on Freedom of Information is provided in Appendix 11. Information on Inquiries by Parliamentary Committees and Reports by the Auditor General are provided in Appendix 12. Information on Documents Tabled in Parliament is provided in Appendix 13.


The Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC) was established by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 to assist the ABS to fulfil its role. The Council is the key advisory body to the ABS and provides valuable input to the directions and priorities of the ABS work program and reports annually to Parliament. ASAC meets twice yearly.

The current Chairperson of ASAC is Professor Sandra Harding, Deputy Vice Chancellor (International and Development), Queensland University of Technology.

During 2004–05 there were thirteen new appointments to ASAC:

Professor Graeme Hugo, University of Adelaide

Professor Tony Barnes, Northern Territory Treasury

Dr James Moody, CSIRO

Mr Roger Beale, The Allen Consulting Group

Ms Leith Boully, Boully Pastoral Company

Ms Elaine Henry, The Smith Family

Mr David Parker, Australian Government — The Treasury

Mr Michael Potter, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Mr Leigh Purnell, Australian Industry Group

Mr John Spasojevic, Commonwealth Grants Commission

Mr Vin Martin, Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance

Mr David Smith, Western Australia Department of Treasury and Finance

Mr Greg Philp, Tasmanian Department of Treasury and Finance.
More details regarding ASAC can be found in the ASAC Annual Report 2004–05, available on the ABS web site or on request.

Image: ASAC members attending the May 2005 ASAC meeting
ASAC members attending the May 2005 ASAC meeting


The provision of a high quality national statistical service is a complex management exercise because of the diverse nature of user requirements and, in most instances, the lead time required to develop statistical collections. While the ABS recognises it is impossible to satisfy all demands, in order to maintain relevance it seeks to react positively and responsibly to the demonstrated needs of its users. At the same time, the ABS is conscious of the constraints on public spending and on the workload placed on providers of information for its collections. Continued effort is made to review and, where possible, reduce provider load.

The ABS maintains a three-year forward work program which is rolled forward on an annual basis. The program is based on the set of components described in Appendix 1. Work programs are developed, resources are allocated and performance indicators are established at these and lower levels.

Each year relative priorities and competing resource requirements of all program components are formally and extensively considered by senior management. Particular attention is given to:
  • the extent to which particular statistical activities continue to be justified in relation to other work for which a demand has been expressed by users
  • the cost imposed on respondents to collections in terms of time and effort
  • prospective total resources available to the ABS within the three-year period
  • the market potential and revenue implications of the various initiatives proposed
  • productivity gains which have been achieved or which might be possible in the future
  • the relative share of resources spent on statistical and non-statistical work.
Proposals from managers of program components are considered by senior management, generally following consultation with major users. The proposed forward work program and resource estimates which emerge are then considered by the Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC). The work program is finalised in light of ASAC advice.

The culmination of the year’s planning cycle is a comprehensive document, the ABS Forward Work Program, which describes for each ABS program, the outputs, clients and uses of the statistical information and the main medium term developments. The document is available for public scrutiny and comment. A copy can be located on the ABS web site or is available on request.


The ABS would not be able to operate effectively without the trust and confidence of data providers. The legal requirement not to divulge identifiable information, and the strong confidentiality and security ethos which permeates the attitudes of ABS staff, are the most important elements of the ABS security screen. They are reinforced by a range of measures relating to the perimeter security of all offices, the security measures protecting the computing environment from any external access, and the security measures implemented for individual data holdings.

Some features of the major elements of the security framework are described below.


The Census and Statistics Act 1905 obliges ABS staff to maintain the secrecy and security of all data reported to, and held by, the ABS. Staff sign an undertaking of fidelity and secrecy under the terms of the Act. The personal responsibility of all staff is a crucial element of ABS culture. It is the foundation upon which the security of ABS data holdings is built.

The ABS has an enviable reputation for the preservation of the secrecy of reported information, and for the protection of its statistical data holdings from unauthorised release. There have been no known cases of any ABS officer breaching the undertaking of fidelity and secrecy.


All ABS premises are physically secure against unauthorised access. Entry is through electronically controlled access systems activated by individually coded access cards and monitored by closed circuit television. Anyone entering ABS premises, apart from reception or defined public access areas, is required to wear an identity pass. Particularly sensitive output data are subject to further physical security measures, including additional access control, supervision and secure storage.


Access to ABS computing systems is based on personal identifiers that are password protected. The computer systems are regularly monitored and usage audited.

Additional access control systems are used to protect any data designated ‘sensitive’. Access to sensitive data is only granted under the authority of area line management (the ‘owners’ of the data) on the basis that access is required by the staff member to carry out their duties.

The ABS computer network has a secure gateway which allows connection to some Internet services. The secure gateway has been established in accordance with Australian Government guidelines and is subject to annual accreditation by the National Communications and Computer Security Advisory Authority, Defence Signals Directorate.


Included in the ABS strategic audit plan is an ongoing program of security audits and reviews of computer systems and the physical environment.

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