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Senate Estimates: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 5 Jun 2013

Community Affairs Legislation Committee

Estimates hearing, 5 June 2013

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare


  • Mr David Kalisch, Director, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare


Senator RHIANNON: I notice on the AIHW website the most recent report about induced abortion is a 2005 publication Use of routinely collected national data sets for reporting on induced abortion in Australia. Is there a more current publication on this?

Mr Kalisch: No. That is the latest data we have available. It was really drawn from a research report that was undertaken around 2003 and then repeated in 2004 to look at a method of producing national statistics about induced abortion in Australia. It was tested by us with our collaborating unit the National Perinatal and Epidemiology Statistics Unit, NPESU, which is based at the University of New South Wales. It produced estimates of induced abortion in 2003 and then 2004. We have no intention to undertake that work at this stage.

Senator RHIANNON: I might have misunderstood your response then. Were you saying that part of the reason this work was undertaken was to explore the methodology, or was it about actually assembling the data, or both?

Mr Kalisch: It was about seeing whether the data was sufficiently robust and could be drawn from a range of sources to produce some robust estimates. I can give you a bit of a sense of the methodology. Selected Medicare data that was assuming that specified services provided out of hospital are only for induced abortion were combined with data for specific procedures and diagnoses from the national hospital morbidity database. Final estimates were produced by applying a correction factor to account for private patients who received induced abortion services but who did not claim a Medicare benefit. That methodology was repeated in a report that was released in 2006. I think that was a subsequent one. That was relating to data for the 2004 year.

Senator RHIANNON: At the end of the executive summary it states: 'The methodology developed for this report will be used by the AIHW to regularly report on the estimated number of induced abortions in Australia.' I gather from your previous answer that that has not happened.

Mr Kalisch: No.

Senator RHIANNON: Why has that not happened?

Mr Kalisch: Perhaps I can just give you a bit of a sense of the funding of the AIHW. We receive about 30 per cent of our total revenues from our government appropriation. So 70 per cent of our revenues come from fee-for-service activity. Unless we were to receive special funding to do this series, to do this work regularly, we would not have the financial wherewithal to be able to do it. The institute runs a pretty tight ship. We do a lot of reporting across health, hospitals, disability, child protection, juvenile justice and prisoner health, and from an appropriation of only $16 million we can only do so much.

Senator RHIANNON: So when in 2005 the executive summary set out that intention, at the time did you have the funding? Has something changed subsequently? It is quite a clear position that was set out.

Mr Kalisch: I will take that on notice if I can, just to find out a little more information about the context. One of the dimensions I should note is that I am not sure whether this report was put out by the institute or put out by one of our collaborating units and whether it was actually their desire and intention to keep replicating this information but resource priorities across the institute did not make that possible.

Senator RHIANNON: It had at the bottom of the report 'AIHW National Perinatal Statistics Unit'.

Mr Kalisch: That indicates to me that it probably was the collaborating unit that put out that perspective and it was not necessarily—

Senator RHIANNON: And that was their intention?

Mr Kalisch: It might have been their intention but at the end of the day they might not have received the resources to be able to do that. It was not necessarily a decision made by the organisation as a whole.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you take on notice, if you cannot let us know now, on what basis that decision was made not to proceed?

Mr Kalisch: I will see what I can find. It does go back a number of directors before me.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. With the data that we have, could you supply a breakdown of both datasets by state and/or region?

Mr Kalisch: I will see what is available from the information that we have in our records.

Senator RHIANNON: If you cannot supply it in that way, can you provide details of how to access the data?

Mr Kalisch: Again, I will just see what we have in our records and what was collected and produced at the time. Unless it is in the form in which that information was collected and estimated at the time—it will not be possible for us to redo that or for NPESU to redo that.

Senator RHIANNON: I am not asking for a redo; I am actually asking for the data that you have collected.

Mr Kalisch: We will see what is available, Senator.

Senator RHIANNON: Would there be any problem in releasing it?

Mr Kalisch: I do not envisage so—not at the state level.

Senator RHIANNON: May I also have any datasets that correlate socioeconomic status of regions with abortion data?

Mr Kalisch: We will see what is available.

Senator RHIANNON: So you are happy to take that on notice?

Mr Kalisch: Yes.

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