1001.0 - Australian Bureau of Statistics -- Annual Report, 2013-14  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/11/2014   
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ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENT STATISTICS

NATIONAL ACCOUNTS

The National Accounts program provides data about the level of economic activity in, and the structure of, the Australian and state and territory economies. These statistics summarise the economic transactions that take place within the Australian economy and between Australia and the rest of the world in a systematic and comprehensive way.

National accounts information is used to formulate and assess government macro-economic policies, both fiscal and monetary; assist in allocating Australian government funds to state governments; formulate industry development policies; measure productivity; undertake financial and business planning; and facilitate international economic comparisons.

The main clients of the program are Australian, state and territory governments, the Reserve Bank of Australia, international organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, private sector analysts, the media and academics.

Key achievements in 2013–14

  • Publication of the Household Balance Sheet commenced on a quarterly basis. This will assist economic policy makers by providing information on changes in household wealth in a timely manner.
  • Estimates of the distribution of household income, expenditure and wealth were published. This initiative utilised existing household survey data to inform the distribution of macroeconomic aggregates for the first time.
  • Annual updating commenced for the National Accounts Concepts Sources and Methods publication. Previously updates had been undertaken only following major reviews of the accounts. Annual updates will ensure users are better informed when making use of National Accounts data.

INTERNATIONAL AND GOVERNMENT FINANCIAL ACCOUNTS

The International and Government Financial Accounts Branch consists of the International Accounts Program and the Public Sector Accounts Program. The Branch also houses the research area for the Macroeconomic Statistics Division.

The International Accounts Program provides statistics on Australia’s Balance of Payments, International Investment Position, Merchandise Trade, and Trade in Services. The statistics are used to analyse Australia’s external performance; formulate and evaluate macroeconomic policy (including trade policy, trade treaties and foreign investment policy); analyse trends in income, capital flows and patterns of investment into and out of the economy; and undertake international comparisons. The International Accounts are also inputs to the Australian National Accounts.

The Public Sector Accounts Program provides government finance statistics (GFS) in respect of the Australian Government, state and territory governments, local governments, and their public non-financial and public financial corporations. GFS are used to monitor the financial performance of governments, to inform on the economic impact of government activities, and as an important input to Australia’s National Accounts. GFS are also used to assist in the distribution of Australian Government grants to state governments.

Key achievements in 2013–14
  • Quarterly balance sheets to government finance statistics were introduced.
  • Research into transactions data for use in compiling the Consumer Price Index and subsequent implementation was completed.
  • Results from the quadrennial survey of Foreign Currency Exposure, Australia (ABS cat. no. 5308.0) were published.
  • An Information Paper, The Non-Observed Economy and Australia's GDP (ABS cat. no. 5204.0.55.008) was published.
  • Leadership of the Pacific involvement in the World Bank International Comparison of Prices Program resulted in the first compilation of purchasing power parities for many nations in the region.
  • Support was provided for development of trade in services statistics and government finance statistics in developing nations.

PRICES

The Prices program compiles a number of main economic indicators that measure changes in a set of prices over time. This includes the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the Residential Property Price Index (RPPI), the Wage Price Index (WPI), and a range of Producer Price Indexes (PPIs) and International Trade Price Indexes (ITPIs). The program also produces Selected Living Cost Indexes (SLCIs) for select household types, including the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index (PBLCI).

The main clients for the program’s outputs are the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Treasury, Australian and state government agencies, economic analysts, and the general business and Australian community.

Key achievements in 2013–14
  • A significant expansion to the suite of residential property statistics occurred from the December quarter 2013. This included the release of an Attached Dwelling Price Index (ADPI) and an RPPI in addition to the existing House Price Index (HPI), and the release of a quarterly measure for the total value of the dwelling stock in Australia.
  • The RPPI, ADPI and HPI series were re-referenced to an index reference period of 2011–12 = 100.0, and an update to the weights and variables used to stratify these indexes using data from the 2011 Census of Population and Housing occurred from the December quarter 2013.
  • A significant increase in the use of transactions data to compile the CPI occurred from the March quarter 2014. These data improve the quality of the CPI and reduce data collection costs.
  • An experimental price index for the Output of the Retail Trade Industry from the September quarter 2013 was released.
  • A significant contribution was made, through missions and technical assistance, to the development of statistics in the Asia–Pacific region. This included CPI technical advice to Timor-Leste and the People’s Republic of China, coordinating the participation of Pacific Island countries in the 2011 International Comparison Program, and undertaking price statistics reviews in Indonesia.

MACROECONOMIC INDICATORS

The Macroeconomic Indicators Branch consists of the Financial Statistics Program, the Building and Construction Program and the Business Indicators Program.

The Financial Statistics Program compiles statistics on the financial assets and liabilities of financial institutions, and on the stocks and flows of finance for sectors of the economy. The statistics are sourced from several ABS statistical surveys and other data sources including the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) and the Australian Taxation Office.

The Building and Construction Program compiles construction statistics on activity levels in residential building, non-residential building and engineering construction. It also compiles building approvals data in the form of expected construction of dwellings, and expected construction activity collected from approving authorities.

The Business Indicators Program is responsible for the provision of a range of sub-annual economic indicators. The indicators include:
  • monthly statistics of turnover by selected retail industries and the takeaway food services industry
  • quarterly statistics of company profits, inventories, sales and labour costs
  • quarterly statistics of actual and expected new capital expenditure
  • quarterly statistics of actual and expected mineral and petroleum exploration
  • biannual statistics of expected mineral and petroleum expenditure.

These data are essential inputs to the compilation of quarterly and annual National Accounts.

The main clients include the Australian Government and state government treasuries, the Reserve Bank of Australia, various state and territory departments, banks, industry associations, and other financial analysts and commentators. These clients use the statistics to analyse economic activity and as partial indicators of the National Accounts. Construction statistics are used for the construction industry; finance and investment sector analysis; and in understanding population change—an essential input to regional planning.

Key achievements in 2013–14

  • The Retail Business Survey was enhanced to provide experimental estimates of the proportion of retail trade turnover derived from online sales.
  • The quality of building approval statistics was improved through ensuring the administrative by-product from local government and other reporting authorities is collected in a consistent way.
  • Increased collaboration with APRA and the Reserve Bank to progress a targeted joint program to reduce provider burden and improve data quality for financial statistics.
  • Respondent burden was reduced by introducing internet-based survey forms for collecting key data for the compilation of macroeconomic indicators.

ENVIRONMENT STATISTICS AND INTEGRATION

The Environment Statistics and Integration Program produce statistics on both the environment and business demography.

The Environment Statistics Program contributes to meeting the demand for comprehensive and coordinated information about Australia’s environment, focusing on key themes such as water, energy, land and waste management. The complex inter-relationships between the environment, society and the economy require integrated information, which is a key focus of the program. The program actively engages with partners to understand information needs and coordinate the development of statistics.

The Business Demography program is responsible for the provision of information about the structure, characteristics and performance of businesses in the Australian economy and conceptual developments regarding business definitions and classifications. This information is part of a consistent framework for all ABS business statistics. The program provides detailed information about business and business activity at a sub-state level.

Key achievements in 2013–14
  • Water Account, Energy Account and Land Account were released, plus new publications: Australian Environmental Economic Accounts 2014 (ABS cat. no. 4655.0); Land Account: Queensland Experimental Estimates 2013 (ABS cat. no 4639.0.55.003); Business Survey of Residential Electricity Distribution (ABS cat. no. 4670.0); Microdata: community engagement with nature conservation, Australia 2011-12 (ABS cat. no. 4602.0.30.001).
  • Contribution was made to the UN System of Environmental and Economic Accounting: Applications and Extensions (SEEA–EA), and papers were prepared for the London Group on Environmental Accounting.
  • Workshops were facilitated in Vietnam and the Philippines on Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services, and water accounts training was provided to the Samoan Bureau of Statistics. A five-day ANU course on environmental accounting was developed and conducted.
  • Counts of Australian Business Operators (ABS cat. no. 8175.0) was released.
  • The revised Economic Units Model was published in Standard Economic Sector Classification of Australia (ABS cat. no. 1218.0).
  • Counts of Australian Business, including entries and exits, 2009-2013 (ABS cat. no. 8165.0) was enhanced by improving employment size range categories.
  • Technical assistance on business registers was provided to the Vanuatu National Statistics Office, the Fiji Bureau of Statistics, and Statistics Indonesia.
  • A joint ABS—Secretariat of Pacific Community Pacific Business Register Development Guide was published.

INDUSTRY AND PRODUCTIVITY STATISTICS

The Industry Statistics program provides information about the structure, financial operations, performance and production of Australian industries. This information is used to monitor the economy and the business cycle, and to support compilation of the Australian National Accounts and Environmental–Economic Accounts.

The program consists of an annual economy-wide financial statistics collection, a rolling collection program that covers specific industries in more detail, and modelling and analytical work covering specific industries or activities.

The Transport Statistics program provides statistics on transport and transport-related activities. It also provides statistical leadership in transport statistics by, for example, chairing the Australian Transport Data Action Network.

The Tourism Statistics program compiles the Australian Tourism Satellite Account (TSA). Tourism-related data produced by other areas of the ABS includes overseas arrivals and departures data, tourism-related exports and imports indicators, and data collected under the Industry Statistics program.

The Economic Analysis and Reporting program encompasses macroeconomic statistics research, economic analysis and reporting, and economic integration functions. This consolidated set of functions is designed to improve the ABS’s capability to produce high quality macroeconomic statistics in the longer term, while addressing emerging priorities in the short term. Analytical activities in the program range from research projects to improve the accuracy and coherence of existing economic statistics and develop new statistical products, through to operational efforts to increase the efficiency of statistical operations. The program compiles and publishes aggregate market sector and industry-level multifactor productivity (MFP) statistics and conducts research into the measurement and interpretation of these statistics.

Key achievements in 2013–14

  • The dispatch and collection phase of Survey of Motor Vehicle Use (SMVU) and Freight Movement Survey (FMS) were commenced.
  • The Non-Profit Institutions (NPI) Satellite Account was compiled and released.
  • The user cost formula for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) capital was improved.
  • New measures of natural resources input for the mining industry were developed and experimental MFP measures for the mining industry were introduced into the 2014 ABS industry MFP data cube.

RURAL ENVIRONMENT AND AGRICULTURE STATISTICS BRANCH

The Rural Environment and Agriculture Statistics Program (REASP) provides reliable, relevant and timely information on the agriculture industry and its contribution to the Australian economy, rural communities and natural resource management. The Program provides data on:
  • agricultural commodities produced on farms and their associated value
  • structural information including the number, size and industry of farm businesses
  • natural resource and land management practices undertaken on farms
  • water used by farms for irrigation and sources of water
  • farmer demographics
  • the level of foreign ownership of agricultural businesses, land and water assets.

Information from the program supports informed decision making by Australian, state and territory governments, industry organisations, the academic sector and the wider community on issues important for agricultural policy determination at the national, regional, and international levels. These issues include the productivity and competitiveness of the agriculture sector, food security and natural resource management. Data from the program directly supports the ABS National Accounts and Water Account.

Key achievements in 2013–14
  • In July 2013 the ABS and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) initiated a joint project, the National Agricultural Statistics Review (NASR). The NASR is considering all aspects of the National Agricultural Statistical Information System (NASIS) and its ability to inform decision making in relation to Australian agriculture. Preliminary findings from the first phase of the NASR were released on 31 March 2014 in National Agricultural Statistics Review- Preliminary findings (ABS cat. no. 7105.0.55.003). The final NASR report will be released through the ABS website on 7 July 2014 and will contain recommendations for improving the system and a framework for ongoing assessment, coordination and governance of information needs.
  • The ABS REASP continues to support statistical capacity building initiatives internationally and in the Asia–Pacific region in support of the Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics (FAO, 2010). During 2013–14 this included representation at the Sixth International Conference on Agricultural Statistics (ICAS VI), held 23–25 October in Brazil and attendance at the 25th session of the Asia and Pacific Commission on Agricultural Statistics (APCAS) held in Laos in February 2014. A theme of both forums was the need for improvements to agricultural statistics to support global food security and rural development.
  • Comprehensive statistical data on the agriculture sector in Australia was released inAgricultural commodities, 2012-13 (ABS cat. no. 7121.0), Value of Agricultural commodities produced, 2012-13 (ABS cat. no. 7503.0) and Water use on Australian Farms 2012-13 (ABS cat. no. 4618.0) in May 2014. The Agriculture Land and Water Ownership Survey, June 2013 (ABS cat. no. 7127.0) released on 19 June 2014 also provided information on the level of foreign ownership of agricultural businesses, agricultural land and water entitlements used for agriculture in Australia.
  • Development work has also been undertaken for the dispatch of the 2013–14 annual commodity survey and second biennial Land Management Practices Survey from mid-2014, with data due out in mid-2015.

INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY SERVICES

The Innovation and Technology program provides data to assist understanding of the impact of research and experimental development, innovation and new technologies on economic growth, productivity and wellbeing. In advanced industrial economies, science, technology and innovation have been the principal sources of long-run economic growth and increasing social wellbeing. Innovation is a key component in making Australia more productive and more competitive. ICT are important enablers of innovation and contribute to productivity growth. Research and experimental development (R&D) activity is a subset of overall innovative activity.
The program provides:
  • measures of the penetration and use of selected new technologies, particularly ICT, within Australia, for both businesses and households
  • measures of R&D undertaken by businesses, governments, higher education institutions and private not-for-profit organisations
  • measures of innovation for Australian businesses
  • measures of Venture Capital and Later Stage Private Equity activity
  • the Business Longitudinal Database (BLD), a tool for understanding business activity and microeconomic drivers of business performance and productivity.
The program also contributes to the work of national and international agencies through input into the review and development of statistical standards and frameworks in relevant fields of statistics.

Key achievements in 2013–14
  • Drawing on the BLD as a base, a Firm Level Plan for increasing the capacity to undertake firm-level analysis of micro-economic drivers of performance, productivity, and improving the evidence base for policy development and evaluation has been developed. A small number of prototype projects have been established.
  • Following a comprehensive review of the R&D Statistics program in 2011–12, the final changes to the re-shaped program were implemented. While outputs for each sector are now released on a biennial basis with a reduced level of detail, the program is now sustainable in the medium term.
  • Progress has been made towards a ten-year plan for Innovation and Technology Statistics. The plan will provide a clear understanding of relevant policies, related information needs and will identify opportunities to improve the evidence base.
    A framework for ongoing assessment, coordination and governance of information needs will be included.