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5489.0 - International Merchandise Trade, Australia, Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2001  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/05/2001   
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Contents >> Chapter 7. Data Dissemination >> Dissemination policies and practices

7.5 In providing a national statistical service, the ABS operates with due regard to the public benefit generated from access to statistics, and to government policies such as user pays and access and equity. ABS objectives in dissemination are to achieve widespread dissemination of information, while partially recovering the costs involved in providing products and services. The balancing of public good obligations and user pays principles underpins the ABS dissemination and pricing policy.

7.6 To meet its public good obligations, the main findings of statistical collections and statistical reports on matters of public interest are made available free of charge to the community via the media, by access to copies of publications provided to libraries located throughout Australia, and through access to selected statistics available free on the Internet.

7.7 Users of ABS services wanting their own copies of publications, or information more detailed than that published, are charged under the user pays policy. The price charged covers the cost of data storage, extraction, confidentialisation, distribution and marketing beyond the cost of production of the basic statistics distributed as public goods.

Release practices

7.8 International merchandise trade statistics are produced by the ABS according to strict timetables. The release dates for publications are publicly announced in advance in prior issues of the publications, on the ABS Website and in Release Advice (Cat. no. 1105.0) issued twice weekly. The statistics are embargoed until 11.30 a.m. on the day of their release.

7.9 The ABS releases monthly and quarterly publications which include international merchandise trade statistics:

  • Monthly import statistics are released on the 12th working day of the following month, in International Merchandise Imports, Australia (Cat. no. 5439.0).
  • Monthly export statistics are released on the 21st working day of the following month, in International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia (Cat. no. 5368.0).
  • Quarterly trade statistics are released on the 35th working day of the following quarter, in International Merchandise Trade, Australia (Cat. no. 5422.0).

7.10 Only broad summary data are included in the monthly publications. However, once the monthly publications are issued, the full range of statistics available for release are disseminated to clients using a variety of mechanisms. Selected export statistics may also be accessed electronically, at any time after their release, via International Merchandise Exports, Australia - on AusStats (Cat. no. 5432.0.65.001), a web service containing all ABS statistics, available on subscription.

7.11 For the quarterly publication, the most up to date monthly statistics are aggregated. The quarterly publication includes analyses of the data and feature articles on different aspects of trade statistics. Once released, data at the most detailed levels are at all times available through ABS Information Consultancy.

Revisions policy

7.12 International merchandise trade statistics are subject to revision after they are initially published, although the revisions made are typically quite small as a proportion of the monthly trade results. Revisions may arise because:
  • an amending entry has been supplied to Customs,
  • errors have been identified and corrected by the ABS after initial processing, or
  • errors have been identified through queries by clients about the published data.

7.13 Prior to July 2000, export and import records were stored on transactions files for eighteen months and six months respectively. This was to ensure that there was sufficient opportunity to apply all amendments received by Customs or arising from ABS investigations. The low rate of amendment to previous figures, and improvements to the timeliness of receipt of amendments, has reduced the need for access to previous transactions.

7.14 As the ABS now only holds six months prior data for exports, and three months prior data for imports, on its transaction files, future revisions will normally be restricted to these periods. Revisions outside these periods, on account of errors in the data, will only be made if the value of the amendment is quite substantial.

7.15 The need to backcast series, i.e. revise previously published data to put it on a new basis, due to classification changes, is considered on a case by case basis. In the case of the replacement of the ASIC by the ANZSIC in 1993, international merchandise trade statistics were presented on an ANZSIC basis from December quarter 1993, with data backcast on that basis to January 1988.

7.16 The Harmonized System was introduced by Australia in January 1988. No backcasting of data was undertaken, but statistics were compiled on both the old and the new bases from January to June 1988. The subsequent revision to the Harmonized System implemented in July 1996 affected data published from that time, but data released in respect of previous periods retained the previous classifications. The changes made were not major ones. As indicated in Chapter 4, the ABS maintains a range of concordances to allow the comparison of data across classification changes.

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