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5. The department's response

I welcome this report on the capability review recently conducted at the ABS.

The review has confirmed that the ABS is one of the nation’s great institutions, with a reputation for excellence, leadership and innovation in official statistics around the world. However, it also notes the increasing challenges we face as a national statistical organisation. There is unprecedented opportunity to unlock the statistical potential of a range of existing and emerging public and private data sources using both traditional and non-traditional methods. Our partners in government are hungry for increasingly detailed and complex data to support key decision-making and research that is critical to the nation, as are researchers and the community more broadly.

The ABS has embarked on a journey of transformation to respond to this new environment, and the emerging needs of its clients and partners. The report finds that our preparations and planning for transformation are progressing well, and that ABS staff support, understand and are keen to contribute to the development of this new era for the ABS. With the appropriate investment, this vision is well on its way to being achieved.

The report also found that our stakeholders would welcome the increased agility and, flexibility of our services, and the improved access to microdata that will be delivered as part of the planned new critical statistical infrastructure program. Indeed, there is some understandable frustration at the pace of delivery of key solutions to the data access problems they are facing. However improving microdata access is a difficult and complex area and one that the ABS is leading the world in developing solutions. These issues will be further considered in our preparation of the action plan arising from this review, and I note the need to consult with stakeholders to ensure that solutions and expectations are aligned.

Our government stakeholders have expressed their keenness to partner with us in building a richer information base for Australia, and to be more involved in developing statistical strategy and policy. I welcome this finding. The success of the National Statistical Service is dependent on the commitment and action of a wide number of players, and the ABS is keen to build on work already underway in this area. I believe the senior team at the ABS is willing and ready to support my successor in furthering our dialogue with others about what we can achieve in partnership with them.

The review team indicate they feel that the ABS is at a crossroads. I support this view. The organisation is poised to achieve one the most fundamental change programs of its 109 year history. The review notes, quite rightly, that this extends beyond processes and systems to some key aspects of the cultural fabric of the ABS itself. Such change will be longer in the making, and this report provides insightful independent observations on the issues we face and how they might be overcome.

My thanks to Mr Tony Cole AO, Mr John Ombler and Ms Carmel McGregor for the care and time they took in undertaking the review, and to the APSC team who supported them and the ABS throughout the review process. My thanks also to the many ABS staff and stakeholders interviewed for their considered and honest input to this review. These findings will be of great use to the incoming Australian Statistician and his or her team as they continue to implement the significant transformation we have embarked on in recent years.

Finally, I am particularly gratified that the report acknowledges the professionalism, dedication and creativity of ABS staff. Throughout my long career with the ABS, they have continued to be the foundation on which the ABS reputation and successes have been built. I am certain they will be the key success factor in achieving the ambitious goal we have set for ourselves in becoming an ABS for the 21st century.

 

Brian Pink

Australian Statistician

Australian Bureau of Statistics