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Responsible Minister

As part of the Treasury portfolio the ABS maintains a close relationship with the Department of the Treasury and the responsible Minister, while acting independently and objectively to provide official statistics and exercise our legislative powers. The Statement of Expectations for the ABS outlines the Australian Government’s expectations of us and our Statement of Intent outlines how we will meet those expectations. 1

During 2017–18, the Hon. Michael McCormack MP, Minister for Small Business and Federal Member for Riverina, was the Minister responsible for the ABS until mid-December 2017. The Hon. Michael Sukkar MP, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer and Federal Member for Deakin, was given responsibility for the ABS in early 2018 and retained that responsibility for the remainder of the 2017–18 reporting year.

Hon. Michael McCormack MP, Minister for Small Business and Federal Member for Riverina

Hon. Michael Sukkar MP, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer and Federal Member for Deakin

Enabling legislation

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 and the Census and Statistics Act 1905 sets out the primary functions, duties and powers of the ABS.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 establishes the ABS as an independent statutory authority, with Section 6(1) describing the six functions of the ABS as being to:

  • constitute the central statistical authority for the Australian Government and provide services for the state and territory governments
  • collect, compile, analyse and disseminate statistics and related information
  • ensure coordination of the operations of official bodies in the collection, compilation and dissemination of statistics and related information
  • develop standards for statistics and ensure compliance
  • give advice and assistance to official bodies in relation to statistics
  • provide liaison between Australia, other countries and international organisations on statistical issues.

The Census and Statistics Act 1905:

  • empowers the Australian Statistician to collect statistical information on a broad range of demographic, economic, environmental and social topics
  • enables the Australian Statistician to direct a person to provide statistical information, in which case they are legally obliged to do so
  • requires the ABS to publish the results of these statistical collections
  • places a life-long obligation on all ABS officers to maintain the secrecy of information collected under the Act, and provides harsh penalties for those who fail to do so.

The Census and Statistics Regulation 2016 prescribes the types of statistical information that the ABS is authorised to collect and other administrative matters permitted by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

The ABS is subject to the requirements of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, which establishes a coherent system of governance and accountability for public resources, with an emphasis on planning, performance and reporting. The ABS is also subject to the Public Service Act 1999, the principal Act governing the establishment and operation of, and employment in, the Australian Public Service; and is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982, Privacy Act 1988 and the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013.

The Statistics Determination 1983 enables the ABS to release detailed statistical information to a wide range of users for analysis and input into the decision-making processes of governments, businesses and individuals.

The Treasury and the ABS undertook a remake of the Statistics Determination 1983 as it is subject to a sunset clause on 1 October 2018.

The remake will enable this legislation to better meet the needs of users by providing a more enabling framework for the safe and secure release of information: specifically, detailed statistical information pertaining to businesses and organisations. Commitments to the confidentiality of personal information have been retained.

Compliance with legislation

In order to encourage compliance with the 2016 Census, 2,951 Notices of Direction to complete the Census were issued pursuant to the Census and Statistics Act 1905. As of 30 June 2018, 41 matters were referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration due to persons failing to comply with a Notice of Direction. These matters are progressing through the courts.