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The role of the Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC) is to provide advice to the Government through the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer and to the Australian Statistician. In a year where the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has been and will continue to be under financial pressure the importance of sound advice on statistical priorities is even more critical.
A key focus of Council during 2003-04 has been consideration of the difficulties confronting the ABS in responding to the increasing statistical demands of government and society within a budget that has been slowly declining in real terms. While Council has assisted ABS in determining priorities within those financial constraints, Council was very much of the view that in the increasingly complex society we live in, information needs will inevitably increase, and the ABS has a pivotal role in ensuring a national statistical service that can respond to those needs. Council has encouraged ABS to seek additional Government funding so as to expand the statistical service and in particular enhance its statistical coordination role through the national statistical service and other initiatives.
ASAC has provided advice to ABS on a range of key economic and social issues including content of the 2006 Population Census, development of the National Statistical Service, ageing statistics, social capital and wellbeing, and nonprofit institutions. These and other issues are discussed in more detail in chapter 2. For two of these topics - wellbeing and nonprofit institutions - expert speakers were invited to address Council. Their presence added considerably to the discussion and ASAC welcomes the continued use of such experts.
ASAC has been particularly supportive in recent years of the development by ABS of measures or indicators of national progress. With this in mind I would like to offer my congratulations to Mr Dennis Trewin, Australian Statistician, who was recognised by the Bulletin magazine for the significant contribution of the ABS to Australian life through winning the society category in its Smart 100 Awards for the development and publication of Measuring Australia's Progress.
Two new members joined ASAC in 2003-04. I would like to welcome Dr Adam Graycar and Mr George Tomlins. I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to non-returning Council members Ms Christine Bierbaum and Dr Michael Kirby for their contribution to ASAC.
It is with regret that I advise of the passing in 2003-04 of Dr Lisa Brodribb and Ms Yvonne Bain, both previous Council members. Dr Brodribb, had been a member of Council from 1977 to 1995 and Chairperson of Council from 1981 to 1986, while Ms Bain, had been a member of Council from 1980 to 1995.
I would like to convey my appreciation to Mr Dennis Trewin, Australian Statistician and his team for their positive approach to ASAC and to the advice provided. I would also like to record Council's thanks to Mr Rob Edwards, former Deputy Australian Statistician, for his valued input to Council deliberations over many years. Finally my thanks to Ms Marion McEwin for her assistance during her time as Council Secretary and welcome to Ms Teresa Dickinson as the new Council Secretary.
I trust you find the report informative.
Professor Sandra Harding