Statistics Legislation Amendment Bill


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Bills Digest No. 5   2003-04

Statistics Legislation Amendment Bill 2003

WARNING:
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

CONTENTS

Passage History
Purpose
Background
Main Provisions
Endnotes
Contact Officer & Copyright Details


Passage History

Statistics Legislation Amendment Bill

Date Introduced: 26 June 2003

House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Treasury

Commencement: Royal Assent

Purpose

To make technical amendments to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975, the Census and Statistics Act 1975 and the Statistics Regulations to ensure that:

  • secrecy provisions apply to people who retired or resigned from the Australian Bureau of Statistics ('ABS') prior to 1999, and
  • the ABS can second people from other organisations and engage supplementary staff for irregular collection activities such as the population census.

Background

The Bill corrects a number of technical deficiencies in statistics legislation which arose as an unintended consequence of previous amendments to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 ('ABS Act').

Main Provisions

Schedule 1 Part 1

Item 1 replaces subsection 16(2) of the ABS Act with a new provision designed to ensure the ability of the ABS to engage staff for supplementary tasks. According to the Explanatory Memorandum, Item 1 rectifies the unintended consequence of an amendment to section 16 of the ABS Act by the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1987.  This placed in doubt the power of the ABS to engage staff under the Statistics Regulations.

Item 3 inserts a new section 16A in the ABS Act to allow the ABS to second employees from other organisations, including agencies and authorities of Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, foreign governments including ABS counterpart agencies in other countries and international organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. 

Item 5 extends the definition of an ABS 'officer' in section 3 of the Census and Statistics Act ('CS Act') to ensure that people seconded under new section 16A of the ABS Act can work with information collected under the CS Act and are subject to the stringent secrecy provisions of that Act.

Item 6 adds new subsection 16(2) to the CS Act preventing people seconded to the ABS from being appointed as 'authorised officers' with 'powers of compulsion' under the CS Act including the ability to request that forms be filled up or questions answered, or the authority to enter prescribed classes of premises.

Item 7 adds new subsection 17(1A) to the CS Act to prevent powers of compulsion under the CS Act being delegated to people seconded to the ABS.

Item 8 inserts new section 19B in the CS Act to ensure that former officers of the ABS who retired or resigned prior to 1999 are still subject to the secrecy provisions in the Act. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration, Peter Slipper MP, noted in the Second Reading Speech:

Deficiencies arising from amendments [to the ABS Act] in 1987 and 1999 have placed in doubt whether all current and former ABS staff are covered by the secrecy provisions of the Census and Statistics Act 1905.(1)

As the Parliamentary Secretary noted, 'fundamental to the trust of the community in the ABS is the knowledge that the ABS will protect their data and keep it confidential.'(2)

Item 9 amends subregulation 3(1) of the Statistics Regulations to allow ABS staff to be employed along with other supplementary staff for occasional intensive tasks such as the population census and other collections.

Schedule 1 Part 2

To ensure the legality of the use by ABS of supplementary staff prior to commencement of this Bill, Item 11 validates all previous purported engagements of such staff.


Endnotes

1.       Second Reading Speech, House Hansard, 26 June 2003, p. 16464.

2.       ibid.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Peter Prince
23 July 2003
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

This paper has been prepared for general distribution to Senators and Members of the Australian Parliament. While great care is taken to ensure that the paper is accurate and balanced, the paper is written using information publicly available at the time of production. The views expressed are those of the author and should not be attributed to the Information and Research Services (IRS). Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion. Readers are reminded that the paper is not an official parliamentary or Australian government document.

IRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1328-8091
© Commonwealth of Australia 2003

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 2003.

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