ACCESSIBILITY OF THE NATIONAL ACCOUNTS
Accessibility of information refers to the ease with which users can learn of its existence, locate it, and import it into their own working environment. Aspects covered include data availability, metadata availability (i.e. information about the data) and the degree of interpretative assistance available to users of the data. Data availability involves issues of data presentation, distribution media as well as the availability of non-confidential but unpublished data. Metadata availability concerns the availability of information concerning the concepts, sources and methods associated with the data. Accessibility also considers whether the information surrounding or supporting the data is openly available to the public.
Most aspects of accessibility in the ABS are determined by agency wide dissemination policies and delivery systems. At the program level, the main responsibility is to choose appropriate delivery systems and ensure that statistical products are properly included within corporate catalogue systems.
Accessing the data
The ABS provides users with ready access to national accounts statistics. Paper publications have now largely given away to a variety of electronic releases which are now the preferred way of accessing statistical information. Everything on the ABS website is free and this includes all standard releases of national accounts information.
A national accounts theme page on the ABS website lists all the quarterly and annual national accounts datasets currently available. It also provides an extensive range of national accounts information including access to the latest national accounts data. Principle results are highlighted.
The regular national accounts outputs are:
- the quarterly publication Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product (cat. no. 5206.0)
- the quarterly publication Australian National Accounts: Financial Accounts (cat. no. 5232.0)
- the annual publication Australian System of National Accounts (cat. no. 5204.0)
- the annual publication Australian National Accounts: State Accounts (cat. no. 5220.0)
- the annual publication Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account (cat. no. 5249.0)
- the periodic publication Australian National Accounts: Input-Output Tables (Product Details) (cat. no. 5209.0.55.001)
- the periodic publication Australian National Accounts: Non-profit Institutions Satellite Account (cat. no. 5256.0)
- the periodic publication Spotlight on National Accounts (cat. no. 5202.0).
Information about the full range of national accounts and other ABS publications is available in the Catalogue of Publications and Products
(cat. no. 1101.0).
Users requiring more detail than that provided in the standard national accounts releases can seek information on request and, subject to cost-recovery charges, the information will be provided if it is available and of sufficient quality.
Accessing the metadata
The ABS has a range of ways of providing users with information about national accounts data. The Australian National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods (CSM) (cat. no. 5216.0) publication outlines the major concepts and definitions, describes the data sources and methods used to prepare the estimates and provides information about the ways in which the relevant international concepts and standards have been implemented in Australia. It also discusses the accuracy and reliability of national accounting concepts and estimates. The publication is available from the ABS website or on CD-ROM.
The front pages of each publication contain key results. Information is included about future releases and about any changes in the issue. Main features describe the major elements of the data, the tables and graphs contain footnotes to alert users to revisions and other relevant issues that impact the data series. The final pages of both the quarterly and annual publications contain 'Explanatory Notes' and a 'Glossary' which describe in detail scope and coverage, data item definitions and classifications and comments on the accuracy of estimates.
Information about releases
Release dates of national accounts publications are announced well in advance, both in the national accounts publications and in general ABS release advices. The ABS website also provides information about upcoming releases.
In releasing statistics, the ABS adheres to long established principles that results of statistical collections should be made available as soon as practicable and should be available to all users at the same time, although the ABS will consider giving very limited pre-release access for the purpose of briefing a Minister. An embargo is placed on the release of statistics until 11.30 am (Canberra time) on the designated day of release. There are strict security procedures to ensure that there is no unauthorised access of statistics prior to release.
Consulting with users
Users are routinely consulted regarding their data requirements and how they would like to see the data presented in publications and electronic media. In response to various user comments, the quarterly publication Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product was redesigned in 2004 to better present key data items and to make the publication more user friendly.
Assistance to users
In accordance with ABS policy, each national accounts publication contains an inquiries box on its front cover which explicitly names a person who can be approached for further information or assistance. The contact officers named are subject matter experts in the National Accounts Branch of the ABS.
Additionally, the ABS national information and referral service provides a free, quick reference information service to queries received from the community via telephone, email, letter and fax.