ABS Letter to The Age Editor "Two + Two = Four (not Five)"

Dear Sir,

Two + Two = Four (not Five)

Richard Webb's story (The Sunday Age, P 18) about the ABS shows the risk of adding bits of information and various opinions to arrive at a solution.

It takes a strong and independent organisation like the ABS to issue a necessary correction to Retail Trade figures, and to admit an error, despite its potential impact on our public image.

Let me reassure you that the ABS remains keen to liaise with the finance sector, and hear what is said. That is why we spent considerable effort checking the way the series was put together. But unfortunately because of the unusual nature of the error it took us some time to discover it.

A thorough investigation by an independent expert is being undertaken into why the error occurred and what steps can be put in place to ensure it never happens again.

Our recent Capital Expenditure revision was just that - a revision due to new information becoming available from a data provider.

The linking of this to Retail Trade is not correct, nor is the conclusion that ABS has somehow changed the way it does business.

We will continue to listen and respond to what informed critics have to say.

Peter Harper
Deputy Australian Statistician
Australian Bureau of Statistics