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The Agricultural Census is one of the largest statistical collections undertaken by the ABS and provides a range of information to inform decision-making on Australia’s agricultural industry, including data on the area and production of key agricultural commodities, and information on water and land use. This information supports policy and planning by Commonwealth and state and territory governments, industry bodies, research organisations and the farming community through:
The Agricultural Census contributes to the broader agricultural statistical system in Australia, which also includes statistics and data produced by ABARES and a variety of stakeholders across the government, industry and research sectors. This system of agricultural statistics users and producers was the subject of a joint review by ABS and ABARES, the National Agricultural Statistics Review (NASR).
The NASR was undertaken over 2013 and 2014 to assess the agricultural statistical system in Australia and its adequacy for informing decision-making, planning and policy making, both now and into the future. Through the NASR process, consultation occurred with stakeholders across government, industry, and the research sector and identified a number of areas for improvement. These included concerns relating to the need to improve data quality, reduce respondent burden, improve coordination and governance across the system, improve the coherence and availability of statistical infrastructure and address data gaps.
The NASR identified a range of opportunities for ABS and ABARES, in collaboration with other statistical users and producers across the system, to address these concerns. These opportunities include making greater use of new technology, particularly in the collection of data (such as web forms); reducing respondent burden through examining the use of alternative data sources such as administrative data; and greater collaboration and data sharing across the system to maximise the utility of available data.
A number of these opportunities align with the directions of the ABS Transformation Program. This five-year program, funded by additional investment from the Australian Government, will enable the ABS to modernise ageing systems and processes and develop the statistical capabilities required to be a high-performing national statistical organisation in the 21st century. The transformed infrastructure and processes will enable the ABS to improve responsiveness, reduce regulatory burden, reduce statistical risk and deliver substantial savings through a reduction in future operational costs. (For more information on the ABS Transformation goals and agenda please see ‘Transforming for the Future’ in ABS Corporate Plan, 2015-19 (cat.no.1005.0).
ABS is making the following changes to the Agricultural Census to address recommendations arising from the NASR and to support the directions of the ABS Transformation Program:
These changes are covered in more detail in the remainder of this paper.
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