The Australian Bureau of Statistics had a torrid 2014 that began with departing Chief Statistician Brian Pink saying there was barely enough money to keep the lights on. Photo: Melissa AdamsMore public service news
The Abbott government’s rescue plan for the Australian Bureau of Statistics, including a takeover by the bureau of the nation’s health statistics agency, is set to be in place by July.
There will also be $250 million for the ABS to upgrade its systems, a “surveying centre of excellence” established, probably in Geelong, and a green light for the bureau’s plans to downgrade the national census.
Sources close to the ABS say the takeover of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the axing of Australia’s five-yearly census, in favour of a giant survey every 10 years as revealed by Fairfax Media this month, are already “done deals”.
The rescue package also contains plans to establish a “centre for surveying excellence” probably in Geelong, with details staffing and funding of the centre unclear at this stage.
The reform effort has been dubbed “Project Archer” and would include the integration of AIHW’s 340 public servants with the ABS’s 2800 workers, with the smaller agency allowed to retain some of its identity.
A target date of July 1 has been set for the merger.
The move would require changes to the AIHW legislative framework but would reunite its public servants with their old boss, Chief Statistician David Kalisch who was CEO of the Institute from 2010 to 2014.
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The new funding is understood to be a response to repeated requests from the bureau for money to upgrade its computers, some of which are 40 years old and cannot talk to each other.
The ABS had a torrid 2014 that began with departing Chief Statistician Brian Pink saying in January there was barely enough money to keep the lights on at the 110-year-old agency.
In September, a young public servant was convicted and is facing a jail sentence for using his position at the bureau to help run a multimillion-dollar insider-trading scam.
The following month, the ABS suffered the indignity of having to backtrack on its unemployment figures from July and August, admitting they were unreliable.
Mr Kalisch has previously told Fairfax that a merger between the bureau and the institute would be a good idea but an ABS spokesman declined to answer questions on Thursday, saying plans to reform the bureau were before the government and subject to cabinet confidentiality.
The AIHW has been Australia’s national agency for official health statistics since 1984 with its independence and reporting obligations underpinned by legislation.
AIHW chairman Dr Mukesh Haikerwal told Fairfax on Thursday that he was not privy to the government’s plans for the institute but said it was important the agency’s approach to its work did not change.
“The institute provides good, clear information and interpretation of that information to help decision-makers make decisions,” Dr Haikerwal.
“How that works in the future, obviously time will tell.
“But there is great benefit in the way the institute does business that is worthy of survival, whatever happens.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.