This page provides a historical overview of the role of the Government Statistician in Queensland.
Statistical activities by government authorities in Queensland date back to 1824 when, as part of the colony of New South Wales, a penal settlement was established at Moreton Bay. Statistical returns on the convicts, supplies and production were sent to the colonial secretary in Sydney. When the district was opened to free settlement in 1842 and then became the separate colony of Queensland in 1859, colonial administrators continued to be responsible for statistical reporting on demographic, economic and social issues. A Statistical Branch formed part of the Office of the Registrar-General established in 1860.
The Government Statistician
As the colony expanded, the need for more detailed, accurate and reliable statistics on people, production, consumption and a range of other economic and social indicators led to the Statistical Returns Act 1896 (Qld). This Act created the position of Government Statistician for Queensland and authorised the person appointed to that position to collect, compile and disseminate statistical information on the colony and, from 1901, the State of Queensland.
Initially, the offices of the Government Statistician and the Registrar-General were part of the Home Secretary's Department. By the 1930s the Government Statistician was collecting statistics on population, migration, local government, employment, wages, primary and secondary industries, water supply, exports and imports, retail trade, banking, transport and social issues.
The Government Statistician’s Office (GSO) continued to grow in size and range of functions, providing the Queensland Government with detailed information to assist with planning, policy development and decision making in the rapidly growing state. By the 1950s the GSO had branch offices in the state’s major regional cities and produced a variety of high quality statistical information.
In the 1950s the Commonwealth and state governments negotiated a merger of statistical agencies to form a single national body to serve all levels of government and other users, culminating in the Statistics (Arrangements with States) Act 1956 (Cwlth). The arrangement was ratified in Queensland under the Commonwealth and State Statistical Agreement Act 1958 (Qld). The GSO and its 150 staff were integrated into the Queensland office of the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics (as the Australian Bureau of Statistics was then known) in 1958. From 1958 to 1984 the head of this office was both the Deputy Commonwealth Statistician for the state and Queensland Government Statistician.
The specific statistical needs of the Queensland Government led to the re-establishment of the GSO in 1984. Once again, the position of Government Statistician was separate from that of Deputy Commonwealth Statistician. The new office had four staff and was attached to the Department of Employment and Industrial Affairs. Its role was to provide statistical advice and facilitate access to statistical information. In 1988 it became part of Queensland Treasury.
During the 1990s the GSO’s functions expanded to include designing and conducting surveys, statistical and economic analysis, database administration, and provision of information and advice on a wide range of statistical issues. The office established a library, with comprehensive holdings of statistical and related material relevant to the state, as well as providing access to detailed data sets held in electronic form. A commercial arm, Qstats, was formed to provide commercial services to other government departments and agencies. An office was opened in Townsville. By the late 1990s the GSO employed 37 permanent staff and about 30 temporary staff.
Office of Economic and Statistical Research
In January 1999 the GSO became part of Queensland Treasury's new Office of Economic and Statistical Research (OESR). Areas where the new portfolio office expanded its expertise included economic and social modelling, information strategy and coordination, survey collection and performance measurement. OESR continued to take on a more regional focus and, in addition, the former Planning Information and Forecasting Unit was amalgamated into OESR in 2009.
Queensland Government Statistician's Office today
In 2014 the office was renamed to better reflect the statutory role and responsibilities of the Queensland Government Statistician.