The federal environment provides a unique set of opportunities and constraints for service delivery by government agencies. Arrangements for official statistics present a good example of this with both levels of government involved as both providers of information and users of the outputs.
In a federal system there is a high level of interdependence between levels of government with respect to statistics. National statistical agencies rely on inputs derived from regional government administrative systems for production of a range of statistics including estimates of population as well as data on health, education and justice issues. Similarly, regional governments rely on use of subsets of national data sets for regional information which is of uniform standard and comparable with data for other regions.
A system is needed which ensures that government agencies at each level have access to the data they use for planning and monitoring functions while minimising duplication. Achievement of this raises a number of issues regarding the relationships between national and subnational government agencies involved in production of statistical information which require resolution.
This thesis endeavours to establish whether a workable national statistical system can be established in a federal environment. It will examine the issues which arise from this aim, suggest approaches which deal with those issues and test those approaches by comparing them with practices which have been adopted in Canada and Australia. The constant factor in this exercise is the universally accepted requirement for a national statistical system.
There is a body of literature which deals with the requirements of national statistical systems. The literature, however, deals primarily with the nature and structure of national statistical agencies and provides little guidance for meeting the unique requirements of a federal environment. This thesis is concerned with the relationships between governments and specifically, the agencies within those governments which are involved in production of official statistics.
It is taken as given that each level of government has the capability of maintaining an adequately resourced statistical agency and that those agencies, where they exist, are appropriately structured and resourced to fulfil their role. This thesis is concerned with the way those agencies can work together to form a national statistical system.
Nine issues are identified which need to be dealt with in order to establish a workable national statistical system in a federal environment. These are: power to collect data, confidentiality, access to data, uniformity, avoidance of duplication, allocation of functional responsibility, allocation of costs, setting of priorities and capacity for review.
Approaches are suggested for dealing with each of those issues. These approaches together comprise a system whose elements are compared with approaches adopted in Australia and Canada to determine whether or not such a system is viable.
The system meets the requirements of a national statistical system and is revealed by the comparisons to be not incompatible with the federal environment as each of the mechanisms proposed has been implemented at least in part in either country. Several of the informal characteristics of federalism may however cause some difficulties in implementation of any system which requires coordinated action by a national government and a number of subnational governments.