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1002.0 - Australian Statistics Advisory Council - Annual Report, 2012-13  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 01/11/2013   
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Geoff Allen, Chair of ASAC

FOREWORD

The role of ASAC is to provide guidance to the Minister and the Australian Statistician on the directions of, and priorities for, official statistics. This includes the improvement, extension and coordination of statistical services provided for public purposes in Australia.

The Council met in August and November 2012 and February and June 2013, with discussions covering a broad range of topics including:

    • The ABS’s future sustainability and its critical statistical infrastructure transformation program;
    • The Essential Statistical Assets for Australia initiative;
    • ASAC’s plans to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Australia’s official statistics;
    • Progress of COAG reforms;
    • NatStats 2013 Conference key themes and outcomes;
    • The collection and coordination of firm-level data;
    • The ABS’s Statistical Spatial Framework; and,
    • The role and function of New Zealand’s Advisory Committee on Official Statistics.

Of increasing importance in ASAC meetings has been the ageing and fragile business processes and supporting infrastructure used by the ABS and the high risk this poses to key official statistics. While the ABS continues to be a world class organisation, the Council is increasingly concerned by these risks facing the ABS. These risks threaten the long-term sustainability of the ABS’s critical contribution to the welfare of Australians through providing essential statistics to governments, markets and the wider Australian community.

As a first stage response to this situation, the ABS has already taken steps to identify a strategy to replace ageing capital infrastructure which is at critical risk of failure. This initiative is strongly supported by the Council and has become a standing item at recent Council meetings. The Council will continue to raise the critical nature of achieving further investment by government for this initiative in appropriate forums.

As part of its role in the National Statistical Service, the Council was actively involved in the Essential Statistical Assets for Australia initiative, which represents the first holistic assessment of the essential statistics needed for Australia. Two extraordinary meetings were held in August 2012 and again in February 2013, in order for ASAC to provide input and formally endorse the 2013 list of Essential Statistical Assets for Australia. The list was officially released in March 2013 at the NatStats 2013 Conference, held in Brisbane.

ASAC members were involved in the planning stages of the NatStats 2013 Conference, and it was gratifying to see some members directly involved as conference presenters or in panel discussions. The conference theme was A better informed Australia: The role of statistics in building the nation. A key focus was discussing how the world of information is changing and identifying the big data opportunities and challenges for Australia’s statistical system. ASAC believes these conferences assist to affirm the significance of statistics in Australia and while they play an important role as a public policy forum, they also promote the importance of the national statistical system.

Further to its NSS role, ASAC has continued to progress discussions on the need for a national approach to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of Australia’s official statistical system, holding a high level workshop in August 2012 to look at how a business case for reform could be taken forward. The development of this work will be a key focus for the Council next year.

A highlight of the year was meeting with the Chair of New Zealand’s Advisory Committee on Official Statistics and the Chief Executive of Statistics New Zealand. Council members found many parallels in the challenges that were being faced by Statistics New Zealand and the New Zealand statistical system, and were encouraged by the similarity of solutions being reached. Engagement with international statistical committees provides valuable insight into the issues being faced in Australia and internationally, and the Council will continue to look for suitable opportunities to gain these perspectives.

This year, in conformity with good governance, ASAC undertook a Council self-assessment performance evaluation survey. I am pleased with the results of this survey, which looked at a range of matters including, the role of ASAC, the membership mix, the administration and management of meetings, and the balance between ABS and Council member inputs. One outcome of this review was the decision to systematically explore enhancing the value of Australia’s official statistical system. Overall, Council members were satisfied with the performance of ASAC and felt ASAC was operating effectively in support of its statutory role.

MEMBERSHIP

The Council has seen a number of changes to its membership this year. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of Mr Tony Stubbin, Ms Glenys Beauchamp PSM, Ms Serena Wilson, Dr Gary Ward and long-term member, Mr Peter Horn, whose ASAC memberships all ended in the past year. The work Council members undertake to support the activities of the ABS, and further the development of the NSS, is certainly appreciated. I would like to welcome Mr Bruce Michael, Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver AM, and Mr Antony Skinner who have all formally joined the Council in the past year. Their combined experience and expertise will add many benefits to the Council. Ms Pam Davoren, Dr James Moody and Mr Peter Verwer have agreed to be a part of the Council for a further three years. Their experience, knowledge and expertise are extremely valuable, and their ongoing commitment to the Council is greatly appreciated.

In what has been a busy year for the Council, I would like to thank Council members for their dedication and for their additional support to ABS activities during the year, such as the NatStats Conference. I would like to acknowledge and thank the former Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, the Hon Bernie Ripoll MP for his support to the ABS, his interest in the Council and his recognition of the need to bring improvements to the national statistical system.

I would like to thank the Australian Statistician, Mr Brian Pink, and his team for their positive approach to working with the Council, and for their willingness to consider and act on the advice we have provided during the year. I also thank the ABS staff members who provide secretariat services to the Council, arranging our meetings each year and administering ASAC memberships.

I look forward to working with the new Government and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, the Hon Steven Ciobo MP, as well as the Australian Statistician, Council members, State and Territory Governments and other key stakeholders in the National Statistical Service to build a richer portfolio of official statistics for Australia.

This report will be available on the Council website, which also contains information about the Council, including meetings, functions and membership.

Geoff Allen AM
Chairperson


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