24.5 The institutional environment relates to the institutional and organisational factors which may have significant influence on the effectiveness and credibility of the agency producing the statistics. This is an important consideration as it enables an assessment of the context in which the statistics are produced, and this may influence the validity, reliability, or appropriateness of the product.
24.6 The ABS’s mission is to assist and encourage informed decision making, research and discussion within governments and the community, by leading a high quality, objective, and responsive national statistical service.
24.7 The legislative framework, organisational structure, planning and quality management practices of a statistical agency all affect the ability of a statistical program to meet user needs efficiently and effectively. The ABS operates within a framework that includes the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 and the Census and Statistics Act 1905.
24.8 The Census and Statistics Act 1905 provides the Australian Statistician, who heads the ABS, with the authority to conduct statistical collections and, when necessary, to direct a person to provide statistical information. The Act imposes obligations on the Statistician to publish and disseminate compilations and analyses of statistical information and to maintain the confidentiality of information collected under it.
24.9 To ensure impartiality and independence from political influence, the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 (the ABS Act) sets out the Australian Statistician's independence. The ABS Act requires the Australian Statistician to prepare an annual report on the operations of the ABS for presentation to Parliament. The ABS Act also establishes the Australian Statistical Advisory Council (ASAC). ASAC is the key advisory body to the ABS and provides valuable input to the directions and priorities of the ABS work program. The ABS is financed, via Parliamentary appropriations, for its administration and programs. Its financial statements are audited annually by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) and are published in the annual report. Together, these elements provide an environment conducive to the production of high-quality national accounts and other statistics.
24.10 The ABS has an excellent reputation, both at home and abroad, for providing a statistical service of quality and integrity. A key reason for this reputation is that the ABS is willing to subject its operations and performance to both internal and external scrutiny. Some of the ways this is done is through:
- the advertisement of all scheduled release dates for publications up to twelve months in advance
- the use of daily press and media releases to inform users of publications being released each day
- the strict embargo policy, which is known to the public, that ensures impartiality for the release of all publications
- the publication of the ABS three-year Forward Work Program, which describes the ABS program, including the resources to be used, the outputs, the clients and the uses of statistical information, and the proposed developments over the next three years
- the release of information about statistical standards, frameworks, concepts, sources and methods in a range of information papers and other publications
- the inclusion of details of major revisions to published data in the explanatory notes of the relevant publication.
24.11 The ASNA is based on a culture which focusses on quality, and emphasises objectivity and professionalism within the institutional environment of the ABS.