APPENDIX 2 THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL ACCOUNTS
National accounts are designed to provide a systematic summary of economic activity and have been developed to facilitate the practical application of economic theory. At their summary level, the accounts reflect key economic flows: production, income, consumption, investment and saving. At their more detailed level, they are designed to present a statistical picture of the structure of the economy and the detailed processes that make up domestic production and its distribution.
The purpose of this Appendix is to outline the historical developments in the Australian national accounts, the basic structure of the Australian national accounting system, and the theoretical concepts that the system embodies.
Official estimates of national income and expenditure have been compiled by the ABS since 1945, when estimates were published for the years 1938-39 to 1944-45. Until 1963 they were published annually as papers entitled National Income and Expenditure issued by the Treasurer with the Commonwealth Government Budget Papers.
In 1963 a number of important changes in the structure and presentation of the national accounts and in the conceptual basis and definitions of the principal aggregates were introduced in a new annual publication entitled Australian National Accounts: National Income and Expenditure, 1948-49 to 1961-62 (cat. no. 5204.0). Constant price estimates of the principal expenditure aggregates were presented for the first time.
In Australian National Accounts: National Income and Expenditure, 1971-72 (cat. no. 5204.0), published in 1973, the structure of the accounts was revised to accord more closely to the international standard described in the United Nations publication A System of National Accounts (1968).
In the 1997-98 issue of cat. no. 5204.0, which was renamed the Australian System of National Accounts, a number of changes were introduced, including the implementation of a revised international standard for national accounting (entitled System of National Accounts, 1993 (SNA93)), the replacement of constant price estimates by chain volume measures and the integration of the national income, expenditure and product accounts with the input-output tables. Also, the scope of the publication was expanded to include balance sheets, capital stock and multifactor productivity statistics. Previously, these statistics had been published in separate publications.
The international standards for national accounts was updated in 2008. The new standards are presented in the System of National Accounts 2008 (SNA08). The revised standards are not radical departures from their former edition. They represent an incremental change in the development of national accounting to reflect changing economic behaviour and new policy concerns, as well as an improved understanding of the accounts, their international comparability and harmonisation with other international statistical standards. There have been incremental changes to concepts, classifications and definitions. Some of these represent changes in terminology and presentation, while others impact on the measurement of major summary aggregates such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and saving. For a discussion of the major changes implemented and the concepts, sources and methods of the more significant changes, see the Information Paper: Implementation of new international statistical standards in ABS and International Accounts, September 2009 (cat. no. 5310.0.55.002). The 2008-09 issue of the Australian System of National Accounts (cat. no. 5204.0) was the first issue that is on a SNA08 basis.
The SNA08 was produced by five international organisations involved in the use of economic statistics and the promotion of international statistical standards: United Nations, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Commission of the European Communities.
The SNA08 brings together, within the one integrated framework, the various streams of economic accounts, including estimates of national income, expenditure, and product, input-output tables, financial accounts and national and sector balance sheets. It is designed to provide international guidance to national statistical authorities in the compilation and presentation of national accounts, and to serve as a basis for standardised reporting to the United Nations and other international bodies such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). SNA08 provides definitions and classifications which form the basis for the collection of integrated economic statistics in general.
The international standards for international accounts were updated concurrently with the SNA08 and the standards are compatible. The new standard for the international accounts is presented in the Balance of Payments Manual and International Investment Position Manual sixth edition (BPM6). The International Monetary Fund's Government Finance Statistics Manual 2001 will be revised in the future. Amongst all these international standards, the SNA08 has the central position in economic statistics standards. Considerable effort has been devoted in the international arena to the elimination of inconsistencies between the SNA08 and the other standards.
THE AUSTRALIAN SYSTEM OF NATIONAL ACCOUNTS
The Australian System of National Accounts (ASNA) includes not only the traditional annual and quarterly estimates of national income, expenditure and product, but also input-output tables, State estimates, estimates of capital stock, financial accounts, balance sheets and reconciliation accounts and productivity estimates. The system could also be defined more widely to include balance of payments and government finance statistics. However, these are documented in detail elsewhere and are not considered further in this Appendix except to the extent that they provide data items for elements of the ASNA. For detail see Balance of Payments and International Investment Position: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5331.0). The current version of this product reflects the Balance of Payments Manual and International Investment Position Manual fifth edition (BPM5) concepts and a number of references to data sources and methods are out of date. A revised Concepts, Sources and Methods product updated to include BPM6 was released in 2011. For government finance statistics see Australian System of Government Finance Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2005 (cat. no. 5514.0.55.001).