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Total public sector
9 This release contains general government data only. Actual, rather than estimated, financial year data are available in Government Finance Statistics Australia (cat. no. 5512.0), released in April each year.
10 The principal function of general government entities is to provide non-market goods and services (e.g. roads, hospitals, libraries) primarily financed by taxes, to regulate and influence economic activity, to maintain law and order, and to redistribute income by means of transfer payments.
11 This institutional sector covers the departments of the Commonwealth Government, state governments and local government municipalities. It also includes agencies and government authorities under departmental administration which are engaged in the provision of public administration, defence, law enforcement, welfare, public education, and health. Also included are non-departmental bodies which independently perform the government functions of regulation (e.g. Nurses Registration Boards and the Maritime Safety Authority), provision of non-market services (e.g. the Australian Broadcasting Corporation), and redistribution of income. Some of these bodies may be called 'corporations', but they are still considered part of the general government sector if they perform general government functions. Public universities are also considered part of the general government sector.
12 Unincorporated government enterprises which provide goods and services to their governments and to the public at prices that are not economically significant are also included in this sector. In addition, government quasi-corporations which sell their output exclusively to other government units, while not in open competition with other producers, are also classified as general government units.
LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT
13 The public sector comprises all organisations owned or controlled by any of the four levels of government within the Australian political system; Commonwealth, multi-jurisdictional, state and local. For some GFS series, Commonwealth and multi-jurisdictional are combined and presented as 'national'.
14 The Commonwealth Government has exclusive responsibility under the Constitution for the administration of a wide range of functions including defence, foreign affairs and trade, and immigration. A distinctive feature of the Australian federal system is that the Commonwealth Government levies and collects all income tax, from individuals as well as from enterprises. It also collects a significant portion of other taxes, including taxes on the provision of goods and services. The Commonwealth Government distributes part of this revenue to other levels of government, principally the states.
15 State and territory governments (referred to as 'state' governments) perform the full range of government functions, other than those the Constitution deems the exclusive domain of the Commonwealth Government. The functions mainly administered by state governments include public order, health, education, administration, transport and maintenance of infrastructure. The revenue base of state governments consists of taxes on property, on employers' payrolls, and on the provision and use of goods and services. This revenue base is supplemented by grants from the Commonwealth Government, which now includes an allocation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) revenue.
16 Local government authorities govern areas typically described as cities, towns, shires, boroughs, municipalities and district councils. Although the range of functions undertaken by local governments varies between the different jurisdictions, their powers and responsibilities are generally similar and cover such matters as:
17 Local governments also provide transport facilities, charitable institutions, recreation grounds, parks, swimming pools, libraries, museums and other business undertakings. Local governments' own-source revenue is derived mainly from property taxes. They also rely on grants from the Commonwealth Government and their parent state governments. The Australian Capital Territory has no separate local government.
18 The multi-jurisdictional sector contains units where jurisdiction is shared between two or more governments, or classification of a unit to a jurisdiction is otherwise unclear. The main type of units currently falling into this category are the public universities.
19 The main GFS classification underlying these forecasts is the Economic Type Framework - this is the main classification of stocks and flows. The Economic Type Framework resembles a set of financial statements, with sections for an operating statement, a cash flow statement and a balance sheet. In addition, there are sections to cater for the reconciliation of accounting net operating result measures with cash flows from operating activities and to capture items like assets acquired under finance leases, intra-unit transfers, and revaluations and other changes in the volume of assets.
UNDERSTANDING GFS STATEMENTS
20 The GFS conceptual framework is divided into a number of separate statements, each of which is designed to draw out analytical aggregates or balances of particular economic significance and which, taken together, provide for a thorough understanding of the financial positions of jurisdictions individually and collectively. These published statements are the operating statement, the cash flow statement, and the balance sheet. Only the operating statement and the cash flow statement are included as part of this release.
21 The operating statement presents details of transactions in GFS revenues, GFS expenses and the net acquisition of non-financial assets for an accounting period. GFS revenues are broadly defined as transactions that increase net worth and GFS expenses as transactions that decrease net worth. Net acquisition of non-financial assets equals gross fixed capital formation, less depreciation, plus changes in inventories plus other transactions in non-financial assets. Two key GFS analytical balances in the operating statement are GFS net operating balance (NOB) and GFS net lending(+)/borrowing(-).
22 GFS NOB is the difference between GFS revenues and GFS expenses. It reflects the sustainability of government operations. GFS net lending(+)/borrowing(-) is equal to NOB minus the total net acquisition of non-financial assets. A positive result reflects a net lending position while a negative result reflects a net borrowing position.
Cash Flow Statement
23 The cash flow statement identifies how cash is generated and applied in a single accounting period. 'Cash' means cash on hand (notes and coins held and deposits held at call with a bank or other financial institution) and cash equivalents (highly liquid investments which are readily convertible to cash on hand at the investor's option and overdrafts considered integral to the cash management function).
24 The cash flow statement reflects a cash basis of recording (the other statements are on an accrual accounting basis) where the information has been derived indirectly from underlying accrued transactions and movements in balances. In effect, the transactions are captured when cash is received or when cash payments are made. Cash transactions are specially identified because they allow for the compilation of the cash-based surplus(+)/deficit(-) measure and because the management of cash is often considered an integral function of accrual accounting.
25 The surplus(+)/deficit(-) is a broad indicator of a sector's cash flow requirements. When it is positive (i.e. in surplus), it reflects the extent to which cash is available to government to either increase its financial assets or decrease its liabilities (assuming that no revaluations and other changes occur). When it is negative (i.e. in deficit), it is a measure of the extent to which government requires cash, either by running down its financial assets or by drawing on the cash reserves of the domestic economy, or from overseas.
SOURCES AND METHODS
26 For the Commonwealth government and all individual state and territory governments the statistics shown in this release are based on information provided in, or underlying, the published budget projections for the financial year.
27 GFE data for local governments and the multi-jurisdictional sector are not collected and have been estimated by the ABS.
28 To compile statistics about the financial activities of a particular level of government, or any other grouping of public sector units, transactions and debtor/creditor relationships between units within the chosen grouping (sector or subsector) have to be matched and eliminated to avoid double counting. The process of matching and eliminating these items within the chosen group is known as 'consolidation'.
29 Consolidation is particularly important at the state government level where a significant proportion of total expenses/payments are financed by Commonwealth Government grants.
30 The statistics in this release have been compiled using standard definitions, classifications and treatment of government financial transactions to facilitate comparisons between levels of government and between states within a level of government.
31 However, the statistics also reflect real differences between the administrative and accounting arrangements of the various governments and these differences need to be taken into account when making interstate comparisons. For example, only a state level of government exists in the Australian Capital Territory and a number of functions performed by it are undertaken by local government authorities in other jurisdictions.
32 Interstate comparisons of data may also be significantly affected by differences in the mix of operations undertaken by state governments and local governments. For example:
RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER INFORMATION
Uniform Presentation Framework
33 Following the May 1991 Premiers' Conference, the Commonwealth Government and the state governments resolved to implement a uniform presentation framework in their budget documents. The purpose of the uniform presentation framework was to introduce uniformity into the presentation of GFS so that users of the information could make valid comparisons between jurisdictions.
34 Since budget year 1992-93 the Commonwealth and state governments have presented information in their budget documents on the ABS GFS basis. The information presented in the budget documents of each jurisdiction is compiled with the advice and assistance of ABS officers and generally conforms with the standards applied by the ABS. Jurisdictions may present the information based on their interpretation of the GFS classifications, but must provide a reconciliation of this information with information reflecting the ABS treatment on these issues. In 1999, the uniform presentation framework was revised from a cash to an accruals basis, it was again revised in 2007 to accommodate the 2008 implementation of the Australian Accounting Standard 1049 'Whole of Government and General Government Sector Financial Reporting'.
35 Differences between the ABS statistics and those presented by the jurisdictions may exist because of either different views on classification treatments and/or different consolidation methodologies, however, these are generally minor.
Australian Accounting Standard 1049 (AASB 1049)
36 Australian Accounting Standard AAS 1049 'Whole of Government and General Government Sector Financial Reporting' has been adopted by all Australian general governments in the preparation of their financial statements from 1 January 2008, with early adoption permitted. This standard contains measures similar to GFS; however, there are also differences in treatments of some transactions. Information on AAS 1049 is available from the Australian Accounting Standards Board website <http://www.aasb.com.au>.
RELATED PUBLICATIONS AND PRODUCTS
37 Users may refer to related publications which contain related information.
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