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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Image: Dennis Trewin, Australian Statistician
Dennis Trewin,
Australian Statistician

2004–05 has been a remarkable year in the history of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). It has been a time for reflection, celebration and looking forward to what the future holds. 2005, the ABS’ centenary year, has prompted us to reflect on major historical developments that have led to where we are today and where we want to be positioned in the 21st century. Celebrations to mark the 100 year milestone have been undertaken throughout 2005 and will culminate on 8 December 2005, exactly 100 years after the date on which the Census and Statistics Act 1905 was proclaimed.

The ABS has a fine history and, I believe, has served Australia well. It plays a vital role in an Australian democracy — not just because it delivers information that portrays a mirror on society — but because that information is trusted. This trust has proven important to governments as well and, because of this trust, discussions can focus on what the statistics mean for policy rather than on the integrity of the statistics themselves. Our history has provided a fine shoulder on which to stand as we address the challenges of the future.

In this light it is fitting that in the 2005 Federal Budget additional funding was provided to the ABS to ‘upgrade official statistics’. The additional funding will be used to address critical statistical areas that have become increasingly at risk, to implement new international standards, and for statistical work programs to support new government policies such as the longitudinal study of the food industry. The funding also allows the ABS greater flexibility to undertake extra work in the form of potentially new or, extension of, existing projects. The most immediate impact of the additional funding was the ability to make available electronic publications (PDF and HTML based content) and electronic tables (spreadsheet or data cube format which contain publication tables) free of charge on the ABS web site from 1 July 2005. The additional funding will enable the ABS to position itself for the future.

Changes in the external environment will offer the ABS both challenges and opportunities over the next 15 to 20 years. Internal considerations — including trying to meet an ever widening range of client needs with constraints on resources — reinforce the need for the ABS to consider the nature and scope of its business over coming years. In the second half of 2004 the ABS commissioned a review of its strategic positioning into the 21st century and the Allen Consulting Group was retained to undertake this work. Key findings focussed around relationship management, statistical leadership, national and ABS priorities, and responsiveness.

As part of the centenary celebrations I have presented a number of lectures on the history of the ABS. In March I addressed the National Press Club on the topic ‘100 years of Truth, Damned Truth and Statistics’, describing how a good quality national statistical office is an essential ingredient to an effective democracy. It was the second time that an Australian Statistician has addressed the National Press Club. In June I presented the Sir Roland Wilson Lecture covering the major historical developments that have led the ABS to where it is today, with a special focus on the contributions of Sir Roland Wilson.

Image: The Australian Statistician, Mr Dennis Trewin, addressing the National Press Club
The Australian Statistician, Mr Dennis Trewin, addressing the National Press Club

Some of the key statistical and organisational issues and outcomes for the ABS during the year include:
  • an upgrade to the ABS web site and the provision, from 1 July 2005, of electronic publications (PDF and HTML based content) and electronic tables (spreadsheet or data cube format which contain publication tables) free of charge on the ABS web site
  • approval for the addition of four new topics in the 2006 Census of Population and Housing incorporating questions on the number of children ever born, need for assistance (disability), unpaid work, and household access to the Internet
  • the release of a proposal to enhance the value of the 2006 Census
  • the release of proposed strategies for the 2006 Census products and services
  • the joint hosting of the 55th Session of the International Statistical Institute
  • for the 2006 Census, choosing Salmat Ltd to provide call centre infrastructure and IBM Global Services as the industry partner to develop the eCensus system
  • the inaugural meeting of the State Accounts User Group to discuss state and territory level economic measurement issues
  • the introduction of enhanced seasonal adjustment methodologies into balance of payments, housing, and other lending finance statistics through concurrent seasonal analysis
  • the development of a new quarterly Survey of Superannuation using data from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority
  • the release of an experimental index measuring price changes for financial services acquired by households
  • utilisation of Business Activity Statement data in the estimation method and sample design of the Retail Business Survey
  • the release of Information Paper: The Introduction of Hedonic Price Indexes for Personal Computers (cat. no. 6458.0) to present the methodology that the ABS proposes to use to adjust computer prices for quality change, and its plans for implementation
  • enumeration for the 2004–05 National Health Survey and the 2004–05 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey
  • the implementation of Computer Assisted Interviewing in the monthly Labour Force Survey
  • the establishment of the Centre for Environment and Energy Statistics to provide leadership in the development of environment and energy statistics
  • development of an alternative survey methodology for agricultural collections based on a land parcel frame
  • release of Innovation in Australian Business (cat. no. 8158.0) presenting results from the Innovation Survey 2003
  • release of Information Paper: ANZSIC 2006 Development, 2004 (cat. no. 1294.0) outlining a joint project between the ABS and Statistics New Zealand to review the existing Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) 1993, and develop a revised classification, ANZSIC 2006
  • development of a new geographical unit known as Mesh Blocks, that will become the basic building block for all statistical, political and administrative regions in Australia
  • installation of an ABS developed ANZSIC autocoder into the Australian Taxation Office
  • the inaugural meeting of the National Data Network Interim Governing Board
  • the release of an Information Development Plan for Crime and Justice Statistics with endorsement of the Boards of Management of each of the three statistical units within the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics
  • two industrial agreements listed with the Australian Industrial Relations Commission for certification: ABS Interviewers Certified Agreement 2005–2008; and Data Processing Centre, Certified Agreement 2005–2007
  • undertaking a comprehensive survey of ABS employee opinions covering a number of areas affecting their employment
  • a continued and significant contribution to international statistics, and extensive technical assistance to a number of statistical agencies in the Asia–Pacific region
  • the formation of a partnership between the ABS and the University of Wollongong in the establishment of a Chair in Statistical Methodology.
These and other developments are expanded upon further throughout this section.

Our work is greatly assisted by the Australian Statistics Advisory Council, chaired by Professor Sandra Harding. The members provide their services without fees and we are very grateful for their contributions. I would like to welcome the appointment of thirteen new members and reappointment of three existing members. I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to non-returning Council members, Dr Steven Kates, Ms Betty Hounslow, Dr Martin Parkinson, Ms Anne Nolan, Mr Chris Lock, Mr Haydn Lowe, Mr Peter Jones and Mr George Tomlins for their contribution to ASAC over their combined 36 years of service. Dr Kates and Ms Hounslow have been particularly long serving members (14 years and 7 years respectively), and I wish to acknowledge their dedication and support to the ABS throughout their tenure.

The work of the ABS would not be possible without the continuing cooperation of businesses, households and others who provide the data which form the basis of the statistics produced. The ABS makes a considerable effort in ensuring that we have the trust and confidence of our data providers without which the provision of a quality statistical service would be jeopardised. We have continued our endeavours to reduce the burden placed on data providers through expanding the use of administrative data.

I would once again like to convey my genuine thanks to all businesses and households that assist us in our task by providing the data we need to deliver a quality statistical service to policy-makers, researchers, analysts and the community at large.

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