The integrity of Australian markets, and the ability of traders to rely on data releases in many, rests with the strength of the reputation of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
But news today in the AFR that the ABS is cash strapped, has built up “$117 million” in deficits and has had to go to Treasurer Joe Hockey for a cash top-up should be a big concern to all market players.
The AFR notes that former ABS statistician Brian Pink said in the bureau’s annual report that:
“The overall situation has been progressively impacting on the time and effort required to produce key official statistics on time and to the quality expected by our users and now seriously compromises our longer-term sustainability.”
Already once in the past few years we saw the ABS experiment with a smaller survey for its employment report which widened the standard deviation and made the data even more prone to revision and unreliable. Thankfully for this most vital and volatile report, the ABS relented and went back to the larger survey and higher confidence interval.
Mr Pink, who left his role as head statistician earlier this month, also said he’s worried about “our difficult capital position, which is barely adequate to ‘keep the lights on’” and the “ageing and fragile” process and infrastructure.
Treasurer Hockey has sought to characterise this as another Labor “spider in the closet” of the previous government’s budgetary position.
But it’s more important than mere political rhetoric – the integrity of Australia’s economic data is at risk.
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