South Australian Government signs on to new National Statistical Service, Feb 2004

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South Australian Government signs on to new National Statistical Service

The Government of South Australia has become the first jurisdiction to join the National Statistical Service (NSS) being developed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

A document outlining the key principles was signed today in Adelaide by the Chief Executive of the Department of Premier and Cabinet of the Government of South Australia, Warren McCann, and the Australian Statistician, Dennis Trewin.

Mr Trewin said the development of the NSS would support professional collection and analysis of statistics across all Australian governments.

"High quality official statistics are an integral part of our open and democratic society and vital to enabling governments to make important decisions based on the best information that is available," he said.

"The NSS will assist that process by creating more productive relationships between governments, their agencies and the ABS.

"The ABS will assist NSS members with their approach to the gathering of statistical data and the way that data is turned into useable statistics for the benefit of the community as a whole.

"Their administrative systems can be an excellent source for new statistics.

"The ABS is very appreciative of the foresight of the Government of South Australia in becoming the first foundation member of the NSS.

"This reflects the close professional working relationship that exists between the ABS and the Government of South Australia."


The need for good statistical information has been recognised at the highest levels. Prime Minister, Hon. John Howard at the launch of the Australia Research Alliance for Children and Youth, July 2002 said the following:

"One of the things you find in government is that no amount of goodwill is enough, no amount of good policy direction is enough, unless you have accurate information at your disposal. And the use of taxpayer resources to achieve particular goals can be very frustrating if in fact the database on which these policies are based and the objectives pursued are inadequate, or worse inaccurate."

And in the United Kingdom. Tony Blair, Prime Minister, in "National Statistics Code of Practice" said:

"I know from my own experience the central role of good statistics in making possible well-informed public debate and good responsive government. Statistics provide most of our evidence for making decisions and judging performance. This makes it crucial for our statistics to be reliable and relevant."

The above quotes emphasise the importance of good quality statistical information to effective government. The broad aim of the National Statistical Service (NSS) is to support it's members in the production and improvement of the quality of official statistics. The availability of high quality official statistics is an integral part of our open and democratic society. Furthermore, confidence in official statistics will allow debate to focus on what the data have to say, rather than on how they were produced, and who produced them.

The ABS is not the only provider of statistical information. Increasingly other agencies, at both the Australian Government and State/Territory levels, have the potential to provide more statistical information either through statistical collections they commission or their administrative systems.

The NSS initiative is a recognition that much of the statistical information required to inform policy makers is already contained in the administrative systems of government organisations. It is also a recognition that increasingly agencies are producing and/or using statistical information for performance monitoring and program and policy evaluation. At present the depth and breadth of information that is supplied by primary statistical producers, such as the ABS, falls short of meeting the total needs for statistical information and there is a need to effectively link producers and users of statistics in a systematic and efficient way.

The NSS aims to achieve that objective by narrowing the gap between the supply of and need for information, and in so doing ensure a better information base for all Australians, but particularly governments. The information base will include important statistics generated as a by-product of the administrative processes of government, as well as the outputs of statistical collections conducted to support government activities.

All government agencies that collect information for administrative, regulatory or other purposes have an information store which could potentially provide official statistics. By joining the NSS such agencies are accepting that they have a dual role, their main administrative or business role, and their role as information providers. The NSS can be made stronger by government agencies working together.

It is appropriate that the ABS take the lead on this initiative as one of its legislated functions is the coordination of official statistics.

The vision of the NSS is to have all government agencies working together to deliver the statistics required by Australia, no matter what their source. It would do this by
  • increasing the availability, accessibility and useability of information derived from key administrative and survey data sets
  • applying sound statistical and data management principles and practices
  • forging statistical partnerships to share knowledge and expertise
  • building a relevant and sustainable statistical service founded on the trust of, and cooperation with, the data providers

The key benefit of this initiative will be the availability of a larger range of relevant and high quality statistics for informed decision making. For participants in the NSS, the benefit will be access to a wider range of statistical expertise to improve the quality and management of statistical information that they use in developing policy, program evaluation and performance monitoring. Often "own use" is one of the most important uses of this information.

Benefits of being an NSS member

Over the last few years there has been an increase in the demand for high quality information which cannot be met by the primary statistical agencies alone. Agencies have reacted by drawing on their own administrative data or through undertaking surveys. By joining the NSS members will affirm their commitment to following good statistical practice in assembling and publishing statistical data and having their statistics recognised as official statistics. In so doing they will be contributing to the body of statistics that are needed to inform the nation. Indeed, often they will be informing themselves as well, since statistics form a base for performance indicators and evaluating the effectiveness of policies and programs or assisting in the development of new policies.