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Introductory Statement

As the accountable authority of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), I present the 2017–18 annual performance statements of the ABS, as required under paragraph 39(1)(a) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). In my opinion, based on advice from ABS management and the Audit Committee, these performance statements accurately reflect the performance of the ABS against the performance criteria included in its Portfolio Budget Statement1 and Corporate Plan, and comply with subsection 39(2) of the PGPA Act.

David W. Kalisch
Australian Statistician

ABS Purpose

The ABS Purpose is to inform Australia’s important decisions by partnering and innovating to deliver relevant, trusted, objective data, statistics and insights.


Results against the criteria from the ABS Corporate Plan 2017–18 to 2020–21 and the ABS Portfolio Budget Statement (PBS) are described below. All results related to one programme in the Treasury Portfolio Budget Statement: 1.1 Australian Bureau of Statistics and the ABS Corporate Plan.

Our achievements – performance against purpose

During 2017–18, the ABS has delivered and also commenced many significant initiatives aligned to fulfilling the purpose of informing Australia’s important decisions, while operating in a challenging fiscal and resource environment. These include delivering the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey (AMLPS), delivering high quality data from the 2016 Census of Population and Housing, establishing the work programs to support the Data Integration Partnership for Australia initiative, as well as continuing to deliver the ABS Transformation Program, with particular focus on statistical business, people and culture transformation initiatives. Through the delivery of the core work program, as well as the work to support government initiatives, the ABS continues to enable governments, businesses and the community to be better informed to make decisions, ultimately enhancing the wellbeing of all Australians.

In 2017, the Treasurer directed the ABS to conduct a voluntary survey on whether the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry. Statistics were published from the AMLPS fewer than 100 days from the announcement. These statistics directly informed a significant policy and legal change in Australia. The survey achieved a 79.5% participation rate, with consistent distribution across age groups, gender and geography, demonstrating that ABS delivers trusted, objective statistics which inform Australia’s important decisions. While the survey was a success, and was delivered effectively with the partnership of a number of government departments and private agencies, there was a significant resource impact on the organisation as a result of diverting a large number of highly skilled resources away from the core and transformation work program to deliver the AMLPS. The AMLPS delivery has had a direct impact on the transformation schedule and benefits realisation.

The ABS was awarded the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) 2018 Public Sector Innovation Award for Citizen-Centred Innovation for the AMLPS. This prestigious award positions the ABS as a leader in innovation, applying new and effective methods to problem solving and project delivery.

The Citizen-Centred Innovation Award recognises departments who have worked with citizens to design and deliver innovative public services. This involves getting to the heart of the citizen’s needs to personalise and ultimately improve the citizen’s experience of interaction with government agencies.

The ABS also received the Public Sector Award at the Australian Multicultural Marketing Awards (AMMAs), for the 2016 Census campaign with multicultural marketing agency, Etcom. Together with Etcom, the ABS delivered the largest ever national culturally and linguistically diverse Census campaign. Campaign materials were translated into up to 35 languages across multiple platforms and connected with more than 120 multicultural organisations. The campaign proved incredibly successful with particularly high online response rates for people born in China (90.0%), India (85.4%) and Malaysia (82.4%).

In 2017, the Government also funded the Data Integration Partnership of Australia (DIPA) as a coordinated Australian Public Service-wide investment to maximise the use and value of the Government’s data assets through data integration. The ABS was entrusted to be the primary Accredited Integrating Authority for the DIPA, and was funded $37.7 million over three years to work collaboratively with data custodians to produce enduring linked data assets which combine high value data sources to better support policy development, while maintaining security and privacy of information. This initiative is directly aligned to the strategic priority of developing and implementing new statistical solutions to maximise the value of public data, through investing in stakeholder collaboration and ensuring solutions add value to stakeholders.

Stakeholders are continuing to partner with the ABS on a range of innovative projects such as CPI enhancements and changes in the approach for the Agricultural Census, as demonstrated in the case studies, and are engaging resources to build their own capability to enable better use of the range of statistical products provided by the ABS, as demonstrated through the number of new agreements and secondments that have been initiated throughout the year. Enabling the use of ABS products, either through technical solutions, data outputs or developing capability, is a high priority for the ABS to ensure ABS statistics are widely used and insights can be drawn and utilised to inform decision making. This is demonstrated through the data use and data access measures.

The ABS has undergone a number of phased organisation restructures to ensure it maintains contemporary organisation and governance structures that are designed to meet the needs of the ABS as it progresses through transformation. Changes in the Statistical Services Group structure have reflected a focus on functional alignment across Industry and Macroeconomic statistics. Changes in the Human Resource structure have enabled the People Services Branch to prioritise workforce planning, which is a key identified focus for the ABS in achieving a successful transformation. Both the People and Culture Action Plan (Target 2.3) and the Workforce Strategy (Target 2.4) have continued to be implemented to ensure we are consolidating and enhancing our capability to keep pace with the changing needs of stakeholders and to ensure future sustainability. This includes champions of change, recruiting, graduate programs, workforce planning, job design and activity based working.

Building on our stakeholder relationships has been an ongoing priority to ensure we continue to deliver relevant, trusted and objective statistics and that we are considered trusted and innovative partners. To ensure we maintain focus on our stakeholders, the two-yearly in-depth assessment with key stakeholders has been supplemented by an annual online survey with a range of stakeholders. Our SES also provided feedback on relationships with stakeholders. This will ensure we are delivering the highest priority statistics to inform important decisions. The results reflect that stakeholders are satisfied with the quality, timeliness and range of our statistics (Target 1.2), the uptake of statistics increases each year, including stakeholders reporting increased usage of statistics, data and insights in their work (Target 1.3) and stakeholders agree ABS adds value to their business (Target 3.3). Feedback via the assessment has also identified areas of high importance to stakeholders that the ABS can continue to work on to ensure a customer focus is at the centre of the ABS approach.

Managing risk has been a high focus area for 2017–18. The ABS has refreshed its Risk Management Framework to ensure effective management of risk during this period of transformation, as well as embedding best practice as a standard way of working. Outcomes of the Transformation Program both mitigate risks and generate new risks that need to be actively managed.

The Statistical Business Transformation Program (SBTP) Gateway Review deliverables have also been achieved, recognising the Program’s timely delivery of technically complex deliverables, commitment to continuous improvement, and quality planning (Target 2.1). Statistical collections are also progressively being transitioned to SBTP capabilities (Target 2.2), with learnings from each on-boarding process informing the next wave of activity.


  1. ABS Portfolio Budget Statement is contained in Budget 2017–18 – Portfolio Budget Statements 2017–18 – Budget Related Paper No. 1.16 – Treasury Portfolio.