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Economic data at risk from budget cuts: ABS

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Crucial data about the nation’s economy, jobs market and population may not be produced if the Australian Bureau of Statistics continues to lose funding, the authority’s leader has warned.

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The ABS continued to face more demand for information and data services in 2018/19, Australian Statistician David Kalisch said in the bureau’s annual report, in line with a longer-term trend.

But its operating funding has fallen by about 30 per cent, in real terms, over a decade.

Should such funding cuts continue, Kalisch says the data the ABS has been prioritising in recent years could be the next to go.

“Our economic, labour market and population statistics have been prioritised, and are consuming an increasing share of our budget funding,” he said.

“These will now be the statistics at risk if there are further cuts to ABS funding over future years.”

He stressed the ABS has been become “more efficient and effective” than it previously was.

“Funding cuts of this level inevitably reduce the service we can provide governments, businesses and the community.”

Kalisch noted that more large data sets or “big data” is emerging, but stressed some of them aren’t reliable enough for Australian public institutions to use, taking a little swipe at political polling.

“Recent political polls in Australia provide just one example demonstrating how misleading information be produced through unrepresentative data collections.”

The statistician also confirmed the ABS is continuing its preparations for the 2021 Census.

It completed a tender process in the 2018/19 financial year for a “secure, simple and smart digital service”, and recruitment of a 30,000 strong temporary workforce.

-AAP

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