Home > Your ideas > Submissions > Australian Bureau of Statistics

Australian Bureau of Statistics


Please find attached submission to the Independent Review of the Australian Public Service from the Australian Bureau of Statistics - for review panel consideration.

PDF icon Download (149.71 KB)
Automatic Transcription: 
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Submission to the Independent

Review of the Australian Public Service

Key Conclusions
 The information resources of the ABS, complemented by data from public sector
agencies and other sources, should be viewed as part of Australia’s essential national

 Data is a major public resource that should be used to inform important decisions,
including by the APS and governments in the design and delivery of a range of
services, payments and infrastructure. There are many opportunities to improve our
data resources and their use, both now and into the future.

 New data opportunities and improved ways of using data are expected to continue
emerging over coming years, and the APS should be ready to capitalise on this
development. This will require prioritisation of data activity, sufficient resourcing
and effective collaboration.

 To maximise the public value of the APS data asset, the APS will need to effectively
curate its administrative data and share information consistent with legislative,
including privacy, provisions and community support for data use practices.

 The APS will need to continue building its capability to effectively use and safely
release data and the capability to effectively analyse and communicate information
based on its data assets. The APS will need to consider innovative communications
approaches to have its voice heard.

 In the face of likely proliferation of new data options and increasingly sophisticated
ways of using data, there also needs to be commensurate improvement in
engagement with the community about how their data is being used and protections
that underpin its safe use.

 The ABS and other data providers should be expected to provide more value added
comprehensive analysis, providing data-related services that assist time-poor users
of data. Tightly focussed agencies may have less ability to draw out some of the
more complex interactions across our economy, population, society and

 Statutory agencies within the APS can have greater opportunity to be innovative,
and provide a test bed for public sector innovation, but actions to balance innovation
and risk will need to become more sophisticated.
The Australian Public Service (APS) delivers policies, financial transfers, a range of services,
infrastructure and regulation that contribute to an advanced and prosperous democracy.
The Review of the APS will be more comprehensive if it effectively taps into this breadth of

activity and the insights that come from the broad range of APS activities.
The APS does not operate in a vacuum. It operates within the context of our society,
economy and environment, and the range of domestic and international developments that

should cause the APS to regularly review prevailing arrangements. Information will be key to

the APS better understanding and responding to the challenges being confronted by the

community as well as measuring the outcomes from government interventions.
Many of the pertinent challenges facing our community – such as health, education,
infrastructure, living standards, social services - are not just in the sole domain of the

national Government. Information across levels of government and with the non-
government sector are an important part of the Australian data landscape. Our Federation

provides the opportunity to test, evaluate and learn from alternative approaches.
Australians’ trust in key institutions such as government, the media, business and NGOs has

been in decline (Edelman Trust Barometer). This trend of declining trust has also been seen

across many advanced economies.
By contrast, community trust in the ABS has generally remained high with around 80-90% of

the community trusting the ABS, (ABS 2015), higher than what is generally observed for

statistical offices in developed countries. Expert data users have even higher trust in the ABS

of around 99%. With the recent Census experience, there was a temporary impact on

community trust in the ABS. Recent public sentiment testing in December 2017 found that

community trust had been restored as 88% trust ABS to deliver high quality statistics and

84% were confident the ABS delivers quality Census data.
As the Review develops recommendations for the APS over coming decades it will be

important to consider how potential future changes to technology, community expectations

and the Government Budgetary environment are likely to interact to create new

opportunities and challenges for the APS of the future.

The Role of the ABS

The purpose of the ABS is to inform Australia's important decisions by partnering and

innovating to deliver relevant, trusted, objective data, statistics and insights (ABS 2017).
The ABS informs Australia’s important decisions by all governments, by businesses, and by

Australian citizens in their everyday lives. Statistical information produced by the ABS

documents the complex and changing nature of life in Australia, covering our economy,
population, society and environment.
ABS data are essential inputs to fiscal and monetary policy settings, social support programs

and infrastructure spending. ABS data informs many pertinent public policy debates, such as

employment and wage trends, housing affordability, income and wealth inequality, cost of

living, energy prices, population, the quality of life in our cities and regions, education and

health outcomes, needs-based school funding, outcomes for migrants, personal safety and

so much more.

Page 2 of 14
In addition, ABS data are key to effective functioning of our democracy, with population

data helping establish fair electoral boundaries and our official statistics informing choices

by voters and political aspirants.
The information resources of the ABS, complemented by data from public sector agencies

and other sources, should be viewed as part of Australia's essential national infrastructure.

Opportunities and Challenges with the Information Age

New data sources are emerging, alongside recognition that the public sector can make

better use of data to benefit the community.
The APS already uses some data to design policies and deliver improved services. However,
there are many untapped opportunities to increase and improve use of public data for these

purposes. This will require deliberate attention.
The public sector collects and produces a lot of data as part of its social welfare, tax,
customs, immigration and many other functions. Administrative data is useful in the design

policy and service delivery strategies, so the quality of this administrative data is important.
To produce many of our national statistics, the ABS has traditionally made extensive use of

government administrative data, including customs data, immigration data, vitals

information from the State Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages, government finance

data, and increasingly building approval registrations. The ABS will assess other government

data collections as potential substitutes for business and household survey data collections

in order to improve quality and/or reduce respondent burden.
New data sources continue to emerge. For the ABS, supermarket scanner data and satellite

imagery are contributing to national statistics. Scanner data has improved measurement of

our CPI and ABS is working with Geoscience Australia to unlock the statistical potential from

the Dynamic Land Cover Data. GPS technology and telecommunications data are two more

areas where statistical opportunities are being explored without compromising the privacy

of personal or business information.
Making effective use of new data sources for statistical purposes does take time, resources

and effort, as key data users demand reliable statistics and consistent, unbroken statistical

time series.
ABS is using machine learning to improve its statistical processes, and testing Application

Programming Interfaces to enhance our dissemination of statistics to key users. More of our

users are accessing ABS data from a range of mobile devices, and via social media.
Some information generated from the internet, or through other means, can provide

accurate information. In other cases, big data will provide a misleading perspective as it is

very biased. The APS will need to be a discerning consumer of information, assessing

whether data quality is fit for purpose. The ABS currently makes these judgments for our

statistical processes and is a major contributor to improving techniques around the use of

big data across the international statistical community.
The APS will need to find more effective ways of engaging and supporting contemporary

media operations and to the focus on more opinion and commentary, less capacity to

carefully fact check and greater immediacy of reporting with the 24/7 news cycle. Social

Page 3 of 14
media provides an opportunity for new voices, but with false perspectives also able to be

easily spread.
Technological developments, especially greater access to more powerful and comparatively

cheaper computing capability, are enabling more effective use of very large and linked data

sets compared to what was feasible just a decade ago. New statistical developments have

improved the quality of data linkage and introduced new confidentiality approaches to

enable safe use of sensitive data without compromising the secrecy of sensitive personal

and business information.
For the APS, new linked data resources (such as the Data Integration Partnership for

Australia - DIPA) increase the opportunity to better design evidence-based policy and

service strategies for the community. Examples of some of the insights already achieved

from use of linked data include:
 more accurate measures of Indigenous life expectancy;
 understanding the importance of Small and Medium Enterprises to economic growth
and job creation;
 better measurement of productivity;
 assessing participant outcomes from a range of education and industry assistance;
 more reliable information available for needs-based school funding decisions.
The DIPA is already demonstrating its value at this initial stage, and this is expected to

increase in coming years as the scope and use of DIPA is expanded. The ABS has the

technical expertise to contribute to effective and safe use of data held by governments,
such as the anticipated assistance to the future National Data Commissioner.
Privacy and social license to collect and use data will remain a challenging and important

issue for the APS. Australians have a complex and diverse relationship with privacy of

information, particularly compared to what occurs in many other developed countries.
Australia is quite unusual in having regular debates over privacy with our Census collections

since the 1970s, whereas other countries, including Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands

and Ireland all retain Census data indefinitely for regulated statistical purposes. Even with

the latest 2016 Census privacy debate, public sentiment testing showed that the silent

majority of the community remained resolute to provide full and accurate Census returns,
while a small vocal group in the community were extremely concerned.
The recent Census experience also highlighted that the community has a strong interest in

understanding how granular and integrated Census data is put to good use to benefit our

society and economy. Those who undertake the analysis and research and those who

receive the data insights – including agencies within the APS - need to more actively and

publicly demonstrate these benefits from use of our national data resources. This is a not a

conversation the ABS can or should carry alone.

Improved use of data will contribute to a more effective APS

More effective use of quality data has the potential to contribute to better decision-making

and enhance Australia’s growth potential, productivity, living standards and wellbeing.
It has been said that information is the new oil but, unlike oil, data is not an exhaustible

resource. Good data is, and should be, used many times for many purposes. International

Page 4 of 14
studies demonstrate very significant rates of return to the community from investment in

quality data (for example, a 2014 assessment of the economic benefits from the NZ Census).
There are a number of good practices across the APS with the use of data, including:
 The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has been at the forefront of
more effective use of data, including linked data, to support their policy and program
 The Department of Social Services (and its predecessor agencies) was instrumental in
establishing major longitudinal studies – including the Household, Income and
Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey and the Longitudinal Study of Australian
Children (Growing up in Australia) - that are now providing key insights for policy and
research purposes.
 The Productivity Commission remains an expert user of public data, and the ABS has
had improved data access to support a range of their Inquiries and research
 The ABS has jointly undertaken, with relevant APS Agencies, strategic reviews into
data for agriculture and communications respectively, which have each provided
recommendations for improvement.
The APS would benefit from greater attention to anticipated medium-longer term data

needs, as an adjunct to considering likely future policy and service delivery challenges.
The APS has recently focussed on improving use of public data (for example, 2017

Productivity Commission report on Data Availability and Use and the subsequent

Government response being implemented).
For its part, the ABS has introduced a number of improvements, including adoption of the

international Five Safes Framework enabling improved but still safe use of data. ABS has

also implemented a Virtual DataLab improving access for expert users of microdata and

drawn upon recent advice from the Australian Government Solicitor of the important

legislative requirements around access and use of ABS data.
This is useful, but not sufficient. Other dimensions are also required for the APS to have an

effective strategy to make best use of public data for the nation:
 Ensuring the APS curates good quality, administrative data and produces the
necessary quality and scope of statistical information. This is the necessary pre-
requisite to obtaining maximum benefit from an open data policy – having quality
data that can then be better used. Over the past decade, Budget constraints have led
to reductions in the ABS statistical work program, while other agencies are facing
challenges curating their administrative data resource to a suitable standard;
 Ensuring the APS has the capability to effectively use and safely release data to its
full potential. ABS is contributing to development of this capability across the APS,
and there are other cross-APS initiatives. This does require further attention to build
the data skills of APS staff working in policy and program roles to ensure they are
able to analyse and interpret data and use it appropriately to inform advice, policies,
programs and services. Some agencies are actively progressing partnerships with
academic researchers to access and develop some technical skills that are in scarce
supply. APS collaboration will be essential in order to effectively grow APS capability.

Page 5 of 14
 Ensuring the APS has the curiosity, foresight and creativity to ask the pertinent
questions and to anticipate likely future policy and service delivery challenges. This
might at times require courage for the APS and its senior leadership to develop more
evidence around wicked problems, especially where the evidence generated could
potentially challenge prevailing views.
 Ensuring the APS maintains and further develops community trust around the use of
data for public purposes. Data availability, analytical tools and statistical techniques
have progressed over recent years, but sufficient attention also needs to be given to
ensuring the community is aware and supportive of how information can be used for
community benefit. There is more the APS should do on this front.

Transformation of the ABS

The ABS as an organisation has changed over its 110+ year history. Its scale and statistical

program have evolved over time, alongside timely adoption of new technologies (such as

computerisation) and developments in statistical practices.
Over the last three years, the ABS has been undertaking an extensive internal

transformation program focussed on enhancing our understanding of our external

environment, and improving our organisational effectiveness through our partnerships,
strategy, governance, people, culture and infrastructure. The infrastructure element of the

programme is introducing much overdue contemporary statistical systems over a five year

period, drawing upon funding provided in the 2015 Budget and other ABS funding.
The ABS has six transformation goals. These transformation goals were set in our 2015

Corporate Plan, and have remained our constant focus since that time:
 Environment – we collaborate with stakeholders to understand and better respond
to the current and future external environment;
 Strategy – our strategies enable rigorous statistics, strong partnerships and effective
use of resources;
 Governance – our governance supports responsive decision making, prioritisation
and management of enterprise risk;
 People – we have a diverse, expert, motivated and agile workforce;
 Culture – we are high performing, aligned, engaged, innovative and accountable;
 Infrastructure – our infrastructure is effective, efficient and adaptable.
Initiatives have been progressed in each of these transformation areas since this time. We

report on progress to our staff each quarter (through a visual dashboard and staff

presentations) and regularly highlight expected future transformation focus. We survey staff

engagement with and views on our transformation on a regular basis. ABS transformation

progress is also transparently reported to the public and the Parliament through the ABS

Annual Report.
Transformation of the ABS is one of our three organisational priorities, alongside delivering

official statistics and delivering new statistical solutions that maximise the value of public

data. The ABS transformation is managed like a major business activity, given its significance

to our current performance and future capability.
The ABS is now a more engaged organisation, more actively working with data users but

inevitably prioritising its work program in response to resource reductions. ABS is
Page 6 of 14
strengthening its governance with particular attention to risk management, continuing to

have a professional workforce but now with a greater range of expertise and diversity, and

pursuing increased collaboration and accountability through the organisation.
There is still more to do with the ABS transformation, and this should be an ongoing focus

for the organisation as it continues to build capability and provide public value within a

changing operating environment.

APS as a steward of taxpayer funds

Most of the APS, its services and operational costs, are largely funded from Consolidated

Revenue, with some agencies also operating on a cost recovery or industry levy basis.
The APS should retain a strong understanding that funding of their operations comes

predominantly from taxation sources, through the conduit of Government Budget decisions.
At the ABS, we seek to deliver as much public value as we can from the taxpayer funding we

receive. We look at this carefully, and make choices across five main dimensions:

  1. We produce our core statistics to necessary high standards. We are expected to

deliver “perfect” statistics, first time, every time. The ABS delivers around 500 statistical

series every year, and key data users point to a major problem with one statistical release

on average every five years (representing 0.04% of statistical releases).
2. We also seek to ensure our work program is relevant, and evolves to meet emerging

needs. Our economy, society and environment keep changing, so this is an ongoing

challenge. ABS has recently enhanced its measurement of the CPI, labour market,
productivity, and population estimates, while other lower priority statistical series have

been moved to user funding, reduced or stopped in order for the ABS to operate within our

reduced Appropriation.
3. We put effort into making our data available for important uses, while also making

sure we do not compromise the secrecy of individual personal and business information

provided to us on trust. In past years, the ABS had a default towards choices that did

inevitably reduce the utility of ABS data to our nation and key decisions. Statistical

techniques have since developed to enable a better balance between increased use and still

safe use of sensitive data, alongside adoption of the international Five Safes framework.
4. We continuously seek to improve the efficiency of our operations, including data

capture. We recognise the burden we place on households and businesses to respond to

surveys and we look to capitalise as much as possible from existing data collections. As

noted earlier, the ABS is looking to make better use of government administrative data,
useful commercial data sources and data linkage to produce Australia’s essential national

statistics. The ABS will continue to directly collect some information from households and

businesses to deliver some statistics, and we are looking to make this as smooth as possible.
5. At the same time as we are delivering our current statistical program, we are also

building the future capability of the organisation so the ABS is well placed to continue

operating as an effective national statistical agency into the future.
The ABS has delivered more public value across all of these areas over recent years.

Page 7 of 14
APS agencies are constantly juggling many opportunities and risks, with the intention to

deliver best organisational outcomes from available resources. The ABS has found this focus

on public value to be useful in shaping necessary prioritisation and resource decisions.

APS learning from past experiences

Innovation around what the APS does and how it operates is key to designing better policy,
and delivering quality services and infrastructure that benefit the community.
Community expectations of government appear to be increasing, at the same time as there

appears to be reduced tolerance for any error of judgment or delay in service provision.
Innovation does inevitably carry risk. The critical and transparent nature of what the APS

does, and the speed of implementation often expected by Government, alongside resource

constraints, does increase the likelihood that some implementation problems will emerge.
Recent ABS experiences with the 2016 Census and the recent Australian Marriage Law

Postal Survey provide some useful case studies for the APS Review about organisational

learning and its benefits.
Some aspects of the 2016 Census process were not undertaken to a high standard, and

there were some ABS cultural dimensions that contributed to this outcome. Resource

reductions to the 2016 Census program and some disruption to the Census process

contributed to the risk profile. The Census on-line system provided under contract by IBM

was not available for nearly two days within a Census collection period of around 8 weeks.
The ABS ensured everyone’s 2016 Census data was secure. The ABS still delivered a Census

in 2016 with the usual response rates and produced quality data that can be used with

confidence (Census Independent Assurance Panel 2017). The 2016 Census did not fail and it

was not the worst Census ever.
The ABS owned the 2016 Census process problems, has reflected upon the learnings from

this experience and put in place revised operating arrangements across the ABS.
This has required courage and considerable transparency from the ABS. The Australian

Statistician and other ABS Executives have spoken to many diverse audiences about the

2016 Census learnings, many of which have applicability beyond the ABS (for example,
Kalisch 2016, 2017, 2018).
ABS expects that more organisations – public and private – now have greater understanding

of the challenge of cyber security and the risks they may or may not be mitigating

effectively. Broader dimensions from the 2016 Census process about community

expectations, media and communications challenges, risk and issues management, and the

importance of leadership and management have applicability to the broader APS, and the

ABS has actively promulgated these insights across the APS and beyond.
The early implementation of these learnings in the ABS contributed to successful delivery of

the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey (AMLPS) just a year later. Our prevailing view is

that the ABS would not have delivered such a seamless and successful AMLPS if it had not

experienced and put in place improved strategies from the 2016 Census process.
The ABS has also documented the main features and learnings from the AMLPS, through an

internal Conduct report and an external evaluation report. These are public documents, and

Page 8 of 14
are available for the broader APS (or others) to use. ABS experience with the AMLPS will

contribute to smoother implementation of the 2021 Census and other ABS activities.
ABS’s ability to deliver accurate statistics also relies on a strong learning culture. ABS needs

to be confident that its staff will readily identify and fix any problems with our statistical

processes, given the many important ways in which our statistics are used. For the ABS, a

blame culture would be more likely to discourage such reporting and resolution of any

issues, potentially compromising our national statistics that inform key decisions.
The APS will be more successful in the future if there is greater adoption of a learning

culture, and greater willingness to actively share key learnings from problems as well as


Likely features when designing the APS of the future

While it is always somewhat fraught to predict the future, some key developments are

pertinent for the APS in 2030 and beyond:

  1. The community is likely to further increase their expectations and demands on what

Government will deliver for them.
 There is an opportunity for Government and the Parliament to make much greater
use of data and linked information to improve policy design and government service
delivery, and robustly evaluate existing policies and services.
 The APS and all governments (Commonwealth and states) could initiate further
dialogue with the Australian community about opportunities to use public data to
improve the effectiveness and efficiency of public services to the community,
building more community support for effective, safe use of public data.
2. With further proliferation of social media, and if public debates become more driven

by ideology rather than an assessment of the facts, we are likely to see more

unsubstantiated and emotional or fear-based claims asserted in public debates.
 Official statistics should become more valuable in this context as a source of truth,
compared to assertions and ‘fake news’. The role that the Australian Bureau of
Statistics provides, delivering trusted data that informs key decisions by
governments, Parliaments, business and the community, should be of greater public
value in any more contested environment.
 The APS may also find it more difficult to have its perspectives reflected in the media
and through other channels, and may need to consider innovative communications
approaches to ensure its voice is heard in the community.
3. We should also expect that statistical and analytical techniques will further develop

over coming years to draw more value from new and existing data sources.
 Government should be able to capitalise on new information sources and improved
ways of using information. ABS will continue to engage with the domestic and
international statistical community to improve statistical methods and techniques.
 ABS will continue to be a discerning user of new information, making judgments
around what is fit for purpose.

Page 9 of 14
4. Data skills are expected to be in greater demand across the economy, especially at

the more sophisticated end of the data analysis spectrum, while more routine data analysis

may be increasingly undertaken by available software packages.
 ABS has developed, and can further develop, expertise that should be used more
effectively across the APS.
 Data expertise required and developed by the ABS will be more highly sought after
by more organisations in Australia and overseas, introducing greater challenges for
the APS and ABS to attract and retain staff with these high-end data skills as this skill
premium is likely to be more expensive in the labour market.
 The APS will need to pursue more comprehensive, cooperative and collaborative
strategies to grow, share and retain necessary data and analytical expertise required
to improve overall APS performance over coming years.
5. In the face of likely proliferation of new data options and increasingly sophisticated

ways of using data, there also needs to be a commensurate improvement in engagement

with the community about how their data is being used and protections that underpin its

safe use.
 The challenge for governments and other key users of data will be to better explain
to the public how data can be used for community benefit, to be transparent about
their data practices and continue upgrading privacy and security protections.
 Poor data protections in some organisations alongside unsubstantiated claims and
fear can limit effective use of data for public purposes.
 More intensive engagement with the community about acceptable use of public and
sensitive data will be key to improved future use of data for worthwhile public
6. If resource constraints on the APS continue, for example a further 20% cut in ABS

funding over the next decade, there could be a serious mismatch between the data outputs

from the ABS and the information insights required by government and the community.
 Some of the core economic and population information currently available for
governments, business and the community may no longer be able to be produced by
the ABS, with potential opportunity costs for key decisions reliant on this
information. Aspects of our labour force survey, some industry statistics and some
population information would be at risk if this scenario plays out.
 There are a number of areas where our national statistics should be improved, if
resources were available. ABS has not undertaken a time use survey or a survey of
mental health for over a decade. Our measurement of the service sector is still very
modest, given its significance within the Australian economy. Globalisation and
structural adjustment bring their own measurement challenges, but improved
national statistics can contribute to a better informed community.
 ABS would have less opportunity to capitalise on new information opportunities that
will inevitably arise over coming years. Data innovations require effective resourcing
to ensure reliable consistent statistics can be produced.
 User funding, an alternative and increasing source of resourcing to the ABS over
recent years, would also be expected to be more fraught in coming years if the main
source of funds – other government agencies - are also subject to ongoing efficiency

Page 10 of 14
7. Further consideration should be given to operating structures, scope and the scale of

organisations in the APS over future years.
 The ABS and other data providers should be expected to provide more value added
comprehensive analysis, providing data-related services that assist time-poor users
of data. Tightly focussed agencies may have less ability to draw out some of the
more complex interactions across our economy, society and environment.
 Statutory agencies within the APS can have greater opportunity to be innovative,
and provide a test bed for public sector innovation.
 Smaller niche organisations can have greater challenges attracting professional skills,
and internal working arrangements may limit professional development and
structured career opportunities.
 Small-medium sized organisations in the APS are subject to the full range of PGPA
Act and other government red tape requirements, and can face considerable scale
challenges to be efficient.

Page 11 of 14

ABS legislative and operational features

The core roles and responsibilities of the ABS are defined in its legislation. The Australian

Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 establishes the ABS as an independent statutory authority and

defines its functions, including to:
 constitute the central statistical authority for both the Australian Government and
the state and territory governments;
 ensure coordination of the operations of official bodies in the collection, compilation
and dissemination of statistics and related information;
 develop standards for statistics, ensure compliance and provide advice and
assistance to official bodies in relation to statistics; and
 provide liaison between Australia, other countries and international organisations on
statistical issues.
The Australian Statistician is responsible for the operations of the ABS, consistent with the

UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics and OECD legal requirements, to help deliver

official statistics with integrity. ABS legislation requires that ABS not use contractors for

statistical activities, to help protect the secrecy of sensitive personal and business

information required by the ABS to produce essential national statistics.
ABS is a complex organisation with currently around 2500 staff largely working from nine

locations (all capital cities and Geelong). In addition, a further 400 interviewers are

distributed across the nation.
National statistical programs are delivered from across our nation, and teams are often

located across multiple locations. ABS has more staff located outside of Canberra than in the

nation’s capital. This ensures strong relationships with state and territory governments and

key data users, alongside essential Commonwealth Government relationships.
ABS economic and population statistics, alongside our core statistical infrastructure, are

predominantly funded by our annual Commonwealth Budget Appropriation. Many social

statistics and an increasing number of lower priority statistics are now user funded.
Each five yearly Census is separately funded, costing around $500 million. Census funding is

very unevenly distributed over a five year period, which does introduce challenges with this

major ramp up and then reduction of staffing and activity across this multi-year cycle.
ABS has an extensive range of advisory arrangements, including a legislated Australian

Statistics Advisory Council (currently chaired by Professor Gary Banks AO). This is of

considerable importance as the ABS has undertaken more prioritisation of its work program,
and taken greater account of the perspectives of key data users and stakeholders.
ABS has also deliberately expanded sources of advice, from across the public sector and

private industry, again recognising that not all the knowledge, experience and insights we

require will be located within the Agency. This has been a feature of major program

implementations, such as the Statistical Business Transformation Program funded in the

2015 Budget and implementation of the 2021 Census, with establishment of Executive

Boards that include external members.
ABS has a strong professional workforce, with an enduring tradition of strong graduate

intakes supported by professional development for our staff. This is necessary for the ABS to
Page 12 of 14
successfully deliver on its current and future work program. We undertake work of national

importance across a wide range of very interesting and professionally challenging areas. ABS

staff are highly sought after across the public and private sector.
The ABS seeks to provide an attractive workplace, as part of our approach to attracting and

retaining highly skilled staff, and ensuring the ABS has the necessary capability to perform

its necessary functions. ABS is well known and recognised for its workplace flexibility.
Activity Based Working across all nine locations, modern ICT and other working

arrangements alongside a very positive workplace culture contribute to attractive work-life

balance for staff, workforce attraction and retention, as well as organisational productivity.
In terms of the scale of operations, the ABS:
 is large enough to have specialisation and expertise across many corporate
functions, to enable us to meet the significant red tape burden on all APS agencies,
 is small enough to be able to test and practice greater innovation around how we
work, including flexible work practices,
 does have scale and resource challenges to be able to independently deal with some
major technology or risk dimensions. The ABS, and probably most APS agencies
(probably aside from Defence, ATO, DHS and Home Affairs), will be at least partly
reliant upon effective cross-APS and private sector partnerships to deliver responsive
services, and manage some key risks such as cyber security.

Page 13 of 14

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015), Trust in ABS and ABS Statistics, A survey of informed
users and the general community.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2017). ABS Submission to the Productivity Commission
Inquiry into Data Availability and Use. Retrieved from www.pc.gov.au:

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2017). Australian Statistician's Review. Retrieved from
Australian Bureau of Statistics -- Annual Report, 2016-17:

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2018), Conduct Report of the Australian Marriage Law Postal


Australian Bureau of Statistics (2018) External Evaluation of the Australian Marriage Law

Postal Survey, Nous Consulting Group

Census Independent Assurance Panel (2017) Report on the Quality of 2016 Census Data

Edelman Australia. (2018, February). Australia: Trust in Tumult. Retrieved from

Kalisch, D. W. (2016) 2016 Census Learnings, IPAA ACT Branch, December

Kalisch, D. W. (2017) Insights and Learnings of Census 2016, CEDA Sydney, September

Kalisch, D. W. (2017) 21st Century Leadership in the Public Sector and Learnings of Census

2016, IPAA Tasmania, September

Kalisch, D. W, (2018) Tales from the Corporate Battlefield, Census 2016 and AMLPS 2017,
AICD Governance Forum, March

Kalisch, D. W. (2018) Building trust in statistics through communications, Conference of

European Statisticians, Geneva, June

Productivity Commission. (2017). Inquiry Report into Data Availability and Use. Retrieved
from http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/data-access/report

Statistics New Zealand (2014), Valuing the Census, Retrieved from

Page 14 of 14