Monday, 23 February 2015

Can no-one in the Liberal Party put a brake on these fools?

This week regional Australia woke to find that the foundation statistics used by local government, community groups or individuals lobbying for an increase in government services/funding are now under threat.

The Sydney Morning Herald 19 February 2015:

The controversial proposal to axe the 2016 census has originated from the Bureau of Statistics rather than the Abbott government, the bureau has revealed.
The ABS has asked the government to legislate to remove the requirement that it conduct a census every 5 years and replace it with a requirement to conduct the survey only once every 10 years as happens in Britain and the United States.

The political spin on the proposal to abandon the 2016 national census and change the period between census nights from five to ten years, is that the 109 year-old Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has requested this.

Various journalists point to the fact that the ABS was without a chief executive for almost a year, has had to reduce staffing numbers, is behind in its preparation for the 2016 national census, while its computer system is old and in urgent need of replacement.

However, one doesn’t need to look far for the underlying reason for the bureau’s malaise.

Successive federal governments have starved it of funds and resources. A fiscal position the foolish Abbott Government continued with relish, when in May 2014 it increased the ABS annual funding reduction (Efficiency Dividend) and included a reduction in staffing numbers of est. 100 employees.

Will no-one in the Liberal Party put a brake on Messrs. Abbott, Hockey and Cormann before their mindless and destructive cost-cutting destroys yet another vital institution?


Australian Financial Review 29 January 2014:

The ABS needed government support if it was to continue to produce its current workload, Mr Pink says in the annual report.
He warns that without action, the ABS will no longer be able to maintain its mandated functions in the future “as the trusted and respected statistical leader” in Australia.
“Our constrained budget situation may require hard choices in the coming year as we ensure the next phase of our business and infrastructure transformation strategy, which is so critical to our future sustainability, proceeds in 2014–15,” Mr Pink says.
In his final annual report as Australian statistician, Mr Pink thanked his staff for their work in “an increasingly difficult, constraining and frustrating environment in which to operate”.
Mr Pink has not yet been replaced and Ian Ewing is acting Australian statistician…..
Bank of America Merrill Lynch Australia chief economist Saul Eslake said he had no reason to believe the funding crisis had yet materially affected the quality of the ABS statistics, “but I have no trouble believing that at some point it will”.

Australian Government Treasury Portfolio Budget Statements 2014-15, May 2014:

5 June 2014
Embargo: 11.30 am (Canberra time) 
ABS announces planned changes to future work program

The acting Australian Statistician, Jonathan Palmer, today announced planned reductions to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) work program. 
The ABS must reduce expenditure by about $50m over three years. While the ABS has been able to implement efficiencies in its operations, these are insufficient to meet the expenditure target. As a result, the statistical work program will be reduced from 2014-15. 
Mr Palmer said the revised work program, developed after consultation with key Australian Government agencies, will continue to meet Australia’s core statistical needs. 
“Our highest priority was to maintain activities that are critical to effective government decision making and deliver the most public benefit.
“While the revised forward work program retains core statistical elements and outputs, we have had to discontinue or reduce outputs in areas that are valued by the users of those statistics. If funding is provided for the work we are ceasing, we will reinstate it.

“The quality, integrity and relevance of our statistics are critical to informing effective decision making and we must not lose sight of that as we plan for the future,” Mr Palmer said.

The work program changes, which will be implemented from 1 July 2014, are:


* Environment collections from Australian Households
* Waste Account
* Measures of Australia's Progress
* Australian Social Trends
* Survey of Tourist Accommodation
* ABS funded component of Culture, Sport and Recreation statistics 


* Industry statistics research, development and reporting in selected areas
* Social conditions statistics research, development and reporting in selected areas
* State and territories statistical services engagement and analysis activities
* Regional statistics analysis and development
* Macroeconomic research and development engagement in international activities
* National information and referral services response times
* External statistical education development programs


* Review the House Price Index, with the view to discontinuing it pending identification of alternative sources to meet the Australian National Accounts and other requirements

Further details of the work program changes will be advised to affected users in due course.

As Australia’s national statistical agency, the ABS provides official statistics on a wide range of topics relevant to government, business, and the Australian population.

The Sydney Morning Herald 13 February 2015:

When his predecessor as Australian Statistician Brian Pink left in January 2014, he wrote that the bureau had barely enough cash to "keep the lights on".
Instead of replacing him promptly, the Treasurer and the Prime Minister's offices tossed around options and deferred the decision until December when they finally gave the job to Kalisch, one of the original applicants from earlier in the year.  

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