Implementing Australian Public Service Values in the ABS
The ABS is a strongly value driven organisation. This is fundamental to it performing its role as an independent provider of statistical information for Australia. The strength of these values within the ABS has been confirmed by independent studies.
The core values are outlined in the ABS Corporate Plan. Their shorthand description is relevance, integrity, access for all, professionalism and trust of providers.
These core values are continually reinforced particularly by ABS senior managers. More formally, awareness is strengthened by promotion of the Corporate Plan at induction and other relevant development programs. In particular, a video featuring both the Australian Statistician and the Public Service Commissioner focussing on both ABS principles and Australian Public Service (APS) values and code of conduct has been produced for use on such programs and for other purposes.
In a sense the development of APS core values provided a particular challenge for the ABS as it already had a strongly held set of values. However, most of the APS values are implicit in the ABS core values. For those which are not implicit we have developed, in consultation with staff, a mutual obligation statement between the ABS and its staff. The purpose of the statement is to highlight that the ABS values its staff and has obligations to them but in turn staff have obligations to the ABS and therefore the APS. This statement is also outlined in the Corporate Plan.
The ABS continues to strongly promote its own complementary values and the mutual obligation statement. These together cover the APS values but are expressed in language and a context that is more relevant to ABS.
The ABS has also promoted, in a more limited way, the APS Values and the Code of Conduct. In particular they are promoted through the inclusion of relevant modules in our range of leadership and management development programs, lodgement of information on our electronic bulletin board, and with posters hung in strategic positions around the building.
ABS Service Charters
The ABS had two service charters during 2001-02.
The Client Service Charter describes the relationship between the ABS and users of its products and services. The Charter was developed in consultation with a representative sample of clients. Copies of the Charter are available on the ABS web site and through bookshops located in each ABS office.
The Client Service Charter also offers guidance to clients wishing to provide compliments or register complaints on any aspect of client relationship or services.
The Business Surveys Charter sets out the relationship between the ABS and businesses which provide it with information for statistical purposes. The Charter explains how businesses can seek help from the ABS. The Charter also provides for businesses to ask for a review of the complaints handling process.
The Charter was developed in consultation with representatives of small business and is reviewed annually. Changes were made to the Charter in 2001 to clarify the procedures for obtaining information about ABS collections and for seeking exemptions from completing individual surveys. The Charter is provided to new respondents in collections involving businesses. It is available in English, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Greek and Arabic. The Charter is also available on the ABS web site.
Both the Client Service and Business Surveys Charters include performance standards for the relationships between the ABS and its clients, and its service delivery. Performance against these standards is the subject of ongoing review, as are the Charters themselves.
Social Justice and Equity
ABS support for the Charter for Public Service in a Culturally Diverse Society is demonstrated primarily through the provision of statistical information available to government and community groups to assist in developing and monitoring access strategies in relevant fields, and by taking action to overcome linguistic and cultural barriers in the collection of data.
The ABS work program takes account of the Charter principles, and meets government needs for information to support social justice policies, by the identification of specific population groups of policy interest (such as Indigenous Australians, immigrants, people with disabilities, unemployed people, older Australians, women and children) in censuses and surveys concerned with various aspects of social wellbeing. In 2001-02, the ABS continued to provide data on population, health and welfare, education, employment, unemployment and other topics relating to labour force participation, earnings and income, housing, and recorded crime and justice administration.
The five-yearly Census of Population and Housing, which enables analysis of many aspects of social wellbeing for a wide range of population groups and for small geographical areas, was conducted in August 2001. Enumeration of the first General Social Survey commenced in 2002. A key feature of this new survey is the capacity to relate a wide range of social information in ways not previously possible. Recognising the particular health concerns of the Indigenous population, a supplementary survey of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was conducted during the second half of 2001 in association with the National Health Survey. Development work on comparable international measures of disability was also undertaken during 2001-02.
In 2001-02, the ABS released a range of statistical publications relevant to social justice and equity, including the first issue of Measuring Australia’s Progress (cat. no. 1370.0) which describes progress in several areas of social concern (such as economic disadvantage, housing and health) alongside economic and environmental areas of concern, and the ninth edition of Australian Social Trends, 2002 (cat. no. 4102.0), the annual series which draws on the ABS and other official sources of social statistics to inform on social conditions and wellbeing in Australia.
Other publications of particular relevance to social justice and equity, released by the ABS in 2001-02, include Population Distribution, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2001 (cat. no. 4705.0); The Health and Welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2001 (cat. no. 4704.0) which updates information on the health status, service utilisation and housing conditions of Indigenous Australians; Government Benefits, Taxes and Household Income, Australia 1998-99 (cat. no. 6537.0) a study which examines the effect that government benefits and taxes have on the distribution of resources across Australian households; and, Housing and Infrastructure in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities, Australia, 2001 (cat. no. 4710.0), the first report from the Community Housing and Infrastructure Needs Survey, 2001 which provides information on the condition of housing, the quality of infrastructure services (such as electricity, water and sewerage) and access to health a
nd community services.
Commonwealth Disability Strategy
In the context of the Commonwealth Disability Strategy the ABS performs two roles - it is a provider of statistical services and an employer.
In its role as a provider, the ABS has ensured that the ABS web site and its related domains meet, as required by the National Office for the Information Economy, Priority 1 of the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Due to the high number of tables on the ABS web site it has not been possible to meet Priority 2. Throughout the year opportunities have been sought to meet Priority 2 compliance but these attempts have not proved successful to date.
As an employer, the ABS has implemented a range of initiatives relevant to the Disability Strategy, including:
- active participation in a newly created Public Service-wide network (‘Employing People with Disabilities’) convened by the Australian Public Service Commission designed to assist in addressing issues of employment related disadvantage for people with disabilities;
- participation in a workshop entitled ‘Opening the Door for People with a Disability’ to provide advice and support to the ABS;
- developing a Disability Action Plan to be finalised during 2002;
- continued use of the comprehensive Reasonable Workplace Adjustment Guidelines;
- information about issues relating to Reasonable Workplace Adjustment which is presented through various internal training programs: the ABS Workplace Diversity Online Learning Program; Introduction to Management; Management Development Program; and Orientation. Manager responsibilities in relation to Reasonable Workplace Adjustment and inclusion of all staff are discussed in these programs; and
In addition to its role as a provider and employer, the ABS also has an important role in terms of providing information about disabilities, to assist informed decision making by policy advisers. Information on the nature and extent of disability and associated needs for care and support, as well as the impact of the caring role on carers, is available in Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings (cat. no. 4430.0). Another publication of relevance to the issue is Disability and Long Term Health Conditions, Australia, 1998 (cat. no. 4433.0). Additionally, information about people with disabilities in New South Wales is presented in Disability, New South Wales (cat. no. 4443.1).
Ecologically Sustainable Development
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 requires agencies to report on aspects of its performance as it relates to ecologically sustainable development. The ABS has two key roles in respect of this issue. The first of these is in relation to the ABS mission/outcome and providing statistics on the environment and environmental issues to enable informed decision making. The second role is in relation to ABS operations and its impact on the environment and the steps being taken by the ABS to minimise that impact.
The environment component of the ABS Economic Statistics program collects and publishes information about environment and energy statistics, including environment accounts. The component is involved in the coordination of data collection, research and analysis and implementing international accounting and environmental frameworks.
During 2001-02 the ABS released a range of publications relevant to environmental issues. These included, Environmental Issues: People’s Views and Practices (cat. no. 4602.0); Environmental Expenditure, Local Government (cat. no. 4611.0); and Australia’s Environment: Issues and Trends (cat. no. 4613.0). The ABS also conducted an Environment Management Survey in respect of 2001-02 for the manufacturing and mining sectors which collected information on expenditure by businesses on environment management and protection. In addition, a Salinity and Land Management Survey was developed, asking farmers about salinity and land management issues.
Whilst the operations of the ABS result in the production of greenhouse gases through energy, gas and fuel consumption, and waste, the ABS is actively seeking to implement measures that minimise the effect of its operations on the environment. These initiatives include:
- guidelines to ensure that recruitment practices follow relevant legislation are available to all staff through the ABS Manual of Personnel Management.
- the ongoing implementation of recommendations (including refinement) from energy audits of all offices to reduce the level of energy usage;
- purchase of 2.8 per cent of green energy for ABS Central Office for the period 1 July 2001 to 31 August 2002 under the Australian Greenhouse energy agreement;
- continuation of policy for recycling paper, bottles, cans, and cartons with recycling bins being readily accessible to all ABS staff;
- increased use of liquefied petroleum gas powered vehicles in the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and New South Wales; and
Energy efficiency was one of the prime considerations in the design of ABS House (the new ABS Central Office) with energy usage expected to decline as a result of energy and environmental initiatives undertaken. These initiatives include:
- regular monitoring and reporting on ABS energy accounts.
- energy modelling during the design process, to achieve a high level of building energy efficiency;
- monitoring of energy consumption to assist in formulating energy action plans;
- provision of facilities to encourage staff in the use of bicycles to travel to and from work;
- full market testing for the development and implementation of an Environmental Management System in ABS Central Office, and for replication to all other ABS regional office sites;
- installation of Power Factor Correction equipment on the tenant distribution boards and efficiency enhancement of the lighting system; and
- environmental specifications written into the paper recycling contract for ABS Central Office.