1002.0 - Australian Statistics Advisory Council - Annual Report, 2012-13  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 01/11/2013   
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Contents >> Chapters >> Chapter 2 - Summary of Activities 2012-13

This document was added or updated on 29/11/2013.



The Council held four meetings during 2012-13, on 10 August 2012, 13 November 2012, 19 February 2013 and 18 June 2013. (See Appendix 3 for agenda listings.)


The Council continues to focus on improving coordination, integration and cohesion of national statistics and making better use of administrative data sources.

ASAC has continued to progress discussions on the need for a national approach to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of Australia’s official statistical system. A high level workshop was convened in August 2012 by the ASAC Chair to identify issues in developing a business case for reform to Australia’s statistical system. Building on support gained previously from the 2011 high level workshop on Driving productivity and reform: Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of Australia’s official statistics, this second workshop provided an opportunity to gain valuable advice to help set out what a new framework for Australia’s official statistical system could look like and how best this could be taken forward. This workshop also provided an opportunity to continue to gather support across governments for reform of the statistical system.

As part of these plans, ASAC has been working closely with the ABS to progress the Essential Statistical Assets for Australia initiative. In addition to discussion at the regular ASAC meetings during the year, two out-of-session meetings were specially arranged for the ABS to consult with ASAC members in the development of this initiative, which aims to identify a list of Australia’s essential statistics produced by governments to assist in future investment decisions. ASAC endorsed the final list at an extraordinary meeting held on 19 February 2013. The 2013 list was released by the ABS in the publication Essential Statistical Assets for Australia, 2013 (cat. no. 1395.0) on 14 March 2013. The Council has also provided early advice to the ABS on the next steps of the initiative which include the quality assessment of the statistical assets and the identification of Australia’s Essential Statistical Infrastructure.

Further to its coordination role of national statistics, ASAC was consulted on the development of a whole-of-government plan to improve the collection and coordination of firm-level data by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education. The Department is working to improve the consistency and coherency of the collection of firm-level data to support accurate and timely analysis which will enhance policy and program development and evaluation, and also maximise the research potential of firm-level data sources. The Department received Cabinet approval of the plan in November 2012.


The Council has become increasingly concerned by the ageing and fragile infrastructure held by the ABS and the high risk this poses to key national statistical outputs. While the ABS has made some significant gains in its information management transformation program, in the Council’s view a larger scale investment is required. The Council has supported the ABS initiatives to work with Government to seek an injection of capital funding to invest in its statistical infrastructure for a sustainable future.


Ms Mary Ann O’Loughlin, Executive Councillor and Head of Secretariat of the COAG Reform Council (CRC), outlined to ASAC members the Reform Council’s key achievements over the last five years across a number of COAG reform domains, including education, healthcare, disability, and housing. Ms O’Loughlin remarked on the successful partnerships forged during this time noting the leadership role the ABS had taken, and highlighted key ABS achievements such as the improved homelessness measures and the now regular collection of the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers every three years. Ms O’Loughlin also noted that there were continuing challenges in performance reporting, particularly related to data quality and gaps, as well as opportunities for using administrative data to address some of these challenges.


ASAC members provided advice on the ABS’s Statistical Spatial Framework which has been developed to build a bridge between the statistical and spatial communities and the systems in which they operate. Members strongly endorsed the work the ABS was doing noting how the spatial dimension empowers not only the data, but also the user in their understanding of the data.


During the November 2012 meeting, ASAC members met with Mr Tom Lambie, Chair of New Zealand’s Advisory Committee on Official Statistics (ACOS) and Mr Geoff Bascand, the then Government Statistician and Chief Executive of Statistics New Zealand. They discussed the role and function of ACOS and key projects Statistics New Zealand had been undertaking over the last few years. Interestingly, New Zealand and Australia were facing similar challenges. Of note was the 10-year transformation program which Statistics New Zealand is undertaking, with funding from the New Zealand Government, in order to modernise and standardise its ageing infrastructure systems. ASAC members were also interested in the Tier 1 Statistics initiative, which came out of a review of New Zealand’s statistical system and determines statistical priorities, sharing a similar purpose as the Essential Statistical Assets for Australia initiative. Council members found these discussions extremely insightful and agreed to maintain links with ACOS.

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