20 March 2017

Keynote address, Australian Statistics Advisory Council Dinner, Boat House by the Lake, Barton


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Good evening everyone.

Thank you for your invitation to address the dinner of the Australian Statistics Advisory Council (ASAC) and to highlight – from the Federal Government’s perspective – the important role ASAC and statisticians play in helping us build the kind of country Australians deserve.

I would like to acknowledge Mr Gary Banks AO, ASAC Chairperson, as well as David Kalisch, the Australian Statistician, ASAC members, and senior ABS staff.

From our largest cities to our smallest towns and villages, Australians look to Federal, State and Local Governments to build the roads, hospitals, schools and other infrastructure our communities deserve.

Australians expect Governments to plan for population growth, for Australia’s changing age and cultural diversity, and to ensure the Australia of the future remains the envy of the economic world.

We are today a nation of more than 25 years of uninterrupted economic growth. Australia is a place of jobs growth and stability, of a strong economy and of a vibrant small business sector.

The challenge for every Australian is to keep that confidence high, to create more jobs, to keep energy supply secure and to provide the services Australians need locally.

As the Government, we look to statistics to get that detail right.

As our statisticians, yours is the finger on the pulse of Australians. From a five-yearly snapshot on Census night to insights into business confidence, jobs growth, national retail and housing data, as well as the vital agricultural Census, statisticians and the ASAC provide the perspective we need to plan.

The world and communities around Australia – from Cairns to Karratha and everywhere in between – is changing in ways we would have once thought unimaginable.

The pace and scale of this change is without precedent in human history – and so is the responsibility of Governments to plan for Australia’s future.

So we need statistics now more than ever.

That’s why I was delighted to appoint Gary Banks AO as the ASAC Chairman late last year.

About Gary Banks AO

Gary Banks AO brings to the position an experience in Government and private sector advisory roles, as well as a deep understanding of the issues facing official statistics and a background in policy-related research.

Gary recently finished four years as Chief Executive and Dean of the Australia and New Zealand School of Government and he was the first Chairman of the Productivity Commission, a position he held for 14 years.

Gary’s leadership of the Productivity Commission oversaw a variety of national inquiries on economic and social policy issues and set the tone for the long-term policy thinking on which Australian Governments rely.

Gary currently chairs the Regulatory Policy Committee of the OECD. He has also worked with the World Trade Organisation and World Bank. In addition, Gary is an independent director of Macquarie Group and has been a member of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council.

I congratulate Gary on his appointment and look forward to his significant contribution to the important work of ASAC. His commitment and enthusiasm for the role are welcome and appreciated and I look forward to working with him.

As ASAC and Australian statistics are relied upon even more in the years ahead, Gary will lead further improvements to how the Australian Statistics Advisory Council gives its advice so we can all ensure the Australian future we want.

Statistics in 2017

I know there are a number of priorities for ASAC and the ABS in 2017. As your Minister, I look forward to receiving the Council’s advice on a number of ABS priorities in 2017 including:

  • Building community trust in the quality of 2016 Census results;
  • Making sure the ABS can respond to its environment - identifying and responding to risks, and prioritising statistical work program;
  • Strengthening the ABS’s relationships with stakeholders – listening to and working with our partners;
  • Monitoring progress against the ABS’s transformation goals;
  • Participating in whole-of-Government partnerships, as well as monitoring and promoting ABS initiatives to share and use data.

Concluding Comments

The commitment of ASAC members, your contribution to building Australia and your desire to make improvements in the field of statistics, is something for which the Government and I are very grateful.

We all want to see Australians in work, with local communities which have the services and infrastructure they deserve. That is a goal I know you share and your statistics are what will make that goal a reality.

You may not all be statisticians, but you each of you is a vital part in preparing the Government’s plan.

An understanding of the importance of statistics for policy and decision-making by both government and industry will see Australia stay the growing and well-planned country we all want to see.

As the Government plays its part in building that future, I value the ongoing advice and guidance provided by the Australian Statistics Advisory Council and look forward to continuing our work together in the future.

Once again, congratulations Gary and thanks to you all.