1006.0 - Forward Work Program, 2013-14 to 2016-17  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/06/2013   
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Contents >> General Information >> How the ABS work program is determined


The Australian Statistician is responsible for determining the ABS work program. The work program must align with the ABS’s mission, its legislative mandate and its values. The ABS seeks to provide an appropriate level of service across all its legislated functions within the funding available to it.


The ABS does not have the resources to undertake all of the activities that fall within its mandate and which users would ideally require.

In balancing the ABS’s program of collection and other activities, the Statistician seeks to ensure that the ABS’s resources are used to the maximum benefit of governments and the broader community. In assessing this, the ABS takes account of the value of the information being sought, the extent to which undertaking the activity is consistent with the ABS's legislated mandate and with community expectations, and the costs that the activity would impose upon the ABS, providers, and the broader community.

In assessing the value of the information, the ABS takes account of:

  • the importance of the issue from a public policy and/or community interest perspective
  • the views of Australian, state and territory government agencies
  • the depth and breadth of user interest in the wider community
  • the opinions of recognised experts in the field
  • the extent to which the information would impact on decision making (as judged from history or from understanding the decision-making processes), and any international reporting obligations.
In assessing whether any proposed activity undertaken by the ABS would be consistent with its legislative mandate and community expectations, the ABS takes account of:
  • any specific legislative obligations on the ABS to undertake the activity
  • the statistical measurability of the issue, including the ability to provide information that is ‘fit for purpose’
  • the extent to which other available sources of information, both ABS and non-ABS, could be used to inform decision making
  • the extent to which the ABS’s independent authority and the ABS's power to collect information is required
  • the extent to which meaningful information can be provided in the necessary time-frames
  • the level of community support to provide the required information
  • whether the activity will help build strong statistical capacity and capability domestically and within the Asia and Pacific region and beyond.

In assessing the cost of the activity, the ABS takes account of:
  • the full cost to the ABS of undertaking the collection activity
  • the capacity and capability of the ABS to undertake the collection activity
  • the workload and other costs imposed on providers
  • the sensitivity of the information and the ABS’s requirement to maintain the trust of providers.


The ABS determines future priorities by consulting and planning with users of statistics. These consultations are a key input to decisions on the scope, content and frequency of official statistics.

Consultation takes place through the ABS organised statistics user groups; direct discussion with Australian, state, territory and local government agencies, academics, industry bodies, non-government and community organisations; social media; and the release of information or discussion papers inviting comment. A list of user groups is provided in the appendix.

Consultations cover both the need for data on new or emerging topics, and the need for changes to existing data collections including discontinuing some series. Contact with consulted groups continues throughout the statistical cycle to keep them informed on progress and as a check that developments towards statistical outputs remain on track to meet survey objectives.

The overall shape of the proposed work program and estimates of resources required to deliver it are considered by the Australian Statistics Advisory Council.


The ABS work program can be extended through user-funded activities. The ABS undertakes user-funded work where:
  • the work is consistent with the ABS’s mission, legislative mandate and values
  • the work itself, or the related funding arrangements, does not compromise the ABS's core work program or public support for it
  • there is demonstrable value in the activity
  • any burden imposed on providers is acceptable
  • the ABS has the capability and capacity to undertake the work
  • the work is fully cost-recovered
  • the ABS has full control over all aspects of the work, including ownership of statistics created from it.

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