The Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 and the Census and Statistics Act 1905 set 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 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The Census and Statistics (Information Release and Access) Determination 2018 repealed the Statistics Determination 1983 on 15 November 2018. The remake enables 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.
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 (APS) – and is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982, Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 and the Privacy Act 1988.
On 1 July 2018 the Australian Government Agencies Privacy Code commenced, setting out requirements for agencies’ compliance with Australian Privacy Principle 1.2 of the Privacy Act 1988. The code requires the ABS to adopt an approach to privacy governance that will build a consistent, high standard of personal information management.