ABS responds to 'Reforming the agents of reform' (Australian Financial Review, 1 Nov 2010, pg 23)

"Reforming the agents of reform" (AFR 1 November) quotes that the Productivity Commission encountered "requirements imposed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics that restrict the use of public data".

The ABS has a legal obligation, imposed by Parliament, to protect the confidentiality of information that is provided to it. This does restrict the amount of data that can be made available. While the ABS seeks to minimise this by adopting innovative practices that confidentialise information, inevitably some information cannot be released. Parliament has deemed it necessary to afford this protection to data providers, particularly given that the ABS has the power to compulsorily obtain information.

The ABS strongly supports this position as people are more likely to provide high quality information to us if they know it will be confidential. This results in high quality statistics. Official statistics are a public good, but poor quality statistics would serve the public poorly.

Peter Harper
Acting Australian Statistician