1001.0 - Annual Report - ABS Annual Report, 2002-03  
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Contents >> Section 4 - ABS Outputs >> Chapter 6 - Economic Statistics Output - Review of Components

The remainder of this Chapter reviews the activities and achievements of each component of the Economic Statistics program during 2002-03.

National Accounts

The national accounts component produces statistics which form the core of the Australian system of national accounts. These statistics summarise, in a systematic and comprehensive way, the economic transactions that take place within the Australian economy and between Australia and the rest of the world. The usefulness of the accounts derives largely from the way in which data from a number of sources are brought together and presented in a conceptually consistent way, both for a given period and over time. Australia’s national accounts essentially accord with the recommendations contained in the 1993 issue of the System of National Accounts, which is the international standard for national accounts statistics.

Senior staff of the component attend meetings of the Joint Economic Forecasting Group (comprising major Commonwealth government economic policy agencies) to provide advice on the statistics used as input to the forecasting process.

Achievements during the year included:

  • publication for the first time of Australian National Accounts: Non-Profit Institutions Satellite Account (cat. no. 5256.0)

  • publication of the 2001-02 edition of Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account (cat. no. 5249.0)

  • publication of feature articles in Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product (cat. no. 5206.0) titled ‘Accounting for the Environment in the National Accounts’; ‘Impact of the Drought on Australian Production in 2002-03’; ‘An Information and Communication Satellite Account’; and, ‘A Quality Assessment of the National Accounts Information System’

  • participation in a number of international working parties which have been formed to consider various matters of current importance in a national accounting context. These include task forces on the treatment of software; non-financial assets and financial and insurance services. A number of papers were also prepared and presented in a variety of forums both domestically and internationally

  • provision of technical assistance to the statistical agencies of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Fiji and the Philippines in relation to the compilation of national accounts statistics, and the conduct of a review of the United Kingdom Office for National Statistics’ implementation of chain volume estimation of its national accounts.

International Accounts

The international accounts component produces statistics and related information on the balance of payments, the international investment position and globalisation indicators. Balance of payments and international investment position statistics are published quarterly and annually, while international trade in goods and services statistics are published monthly.

Achievements during the year included:
  • publication of a feature article ‘Foreign Ownership of Equity’ in the September quarter Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia (cat. no. 5302.0)

  • publication of the feature articles ‘Foreign Ownership Characteristics of Businesses Undertaking Research and Experimental Development Activity in Australia’ and, ‘Foreign Ownership Characteristics of Information Technology Businesses 2000-01’ in Australian Economic Indicators (cat. no. 1350.0)

  • hosting the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Committee on Balance of Payments Statistics. The Committee advises the IMF on methodological and compilation issues in relation to balance of payments and international investment position statistics, and fosters greater coordination of data collection among countries

  • hosting visits by senior staff from the Statistics Department of Tonga and the Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics to further technical cooperation between the organisations

  • contributing to the Pacific Regional Workshop on the General Data Dissemination System organised by the Pacific Financial Technical Assistance Centre

  • contribution of Australian statistics to the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey, with respect to December 2001

  • development of a new survey of foreign affiliates trade

  • revision of the International Investment Position to correct gaps and overlaps identified as a result of a review of the recording of the activities of fund managers during the recent period of high growth in their activity.

International Trade

The international trade component produces statistics on the value, composition, destination and source of Australia’s international trade in goods and services. These statistics are available on a range of output media and can be tailored to meet the needs of individual clients. A theme page for international trade on the ABS web site provides users with an extensive set of reference material.

Achievements during the year included:
  • publication of feature articles in International Merchandise Trade, Australia (cat. no. 5422.0), including experimental statistics on Australia’s exporters and importers (two articles), the effect of Customs changes on export statistics, trade through Australia’s ports, and the export and import currencies used for merchandise trade

  • publication of a number of articles on the ABS web site including calendar and financial year estimates of trade in services by partner country and state

  • incorporation of overseas arrivals and departures data into the compilation of the estimates for exports and imports of travel services, following the unavailability of the source data for a substantial period

  • continued participation in the Customs Cargo Management Re-engineering project, in particular the Accredited Client Program, to ensure that the accuracy and timeliness of the core set of merchandise trade statistics are maintained and that implementation of new Customs business processes and information technology systems does not impact adversely on these series.

Financial Accounts

The financial accounts component produces, as part of the Australian system of national accounts, statistics on the financial profile of each sector of the economy and the markets for various categories of financial instruments. Information on inter-sectoral financial transactions is also provided. Extensive reference material relating to financial statistics is available from the finance theme page on the ABS web site.

The component also produces statistics on the lending activity of financial institutions such as banks, building societies, finance companies, credit unions, unit trusts and superannuation funds. A significant stream of work for the year was the continued cooperation with the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), and data providers for rationalised and harmonised data collection from the financial sector.

Achievements during the year included:
  • commencement of data collection for lending activity for all registered and regulated institutions, and for other financial reports from registered institutions

  • commencement of data collection by APRA from registered institutions not otherwise regulated (such as money market corporations and finance companies) in place of RBA and ABS collections

  • continued cooperation with APRA on the collection and production of superannuation statistics, in conjunction with the Australian Taxation Office

  • the conduct of, and publication of results from, a third survey of venture capital, with the support of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources and the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts.

Public Sector Accounts

The public sector accounts component provides government finance statistics for the Australian Commonwealth government, state and territory governments, their public non-financial and financial corporations, local governments, and universities. In addition to a range of annual publications, quarterly statistics are compiled for inclusion in the national accounts, and detailed financial statistics about individual local government authorities are provided on request. The component provides advice on the statistics used as input to the forecasting work of the Public Sector Subcommittee of the Joint Economic Forecasting Group.

Achievements during the year included:
  • contribution to work on harmonising government finance statistics standards and Australian accounting standards

  • redesign of the quarterly local government finance collection, with the objective of improving the quality of the estimates

  • finalisation of the Australian System of Government Finance Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods manual, which will be released in July 2003.


The prices component is responsible for compiling the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a range of Producer Price Indexes (PPI) and International Trade Price Indexes (ITPI), and the Wage Cost Index (WCI).

The CPI measures the change each quarter in the cost of purchasing a fixed basket of consumer goods and services. The producer and international trade price indexes include price indexes of inputs and outputs of manufacturing industry; materials used in the building industry; outputs of selected service industries; the supply of commodities to the Australian economy in a ‘stage of production’ framework; and exports and imports. The WCI measures the change in wage and salary costs in the Australian labour market, in isolation of changes in the quality and quantity of work performed.

Achievements during the year included:
  • a feature article released in Australian Economic Indicators (cat. no. 1350.0) which presented an update to the living cost indexes for four household subgroups - employees, age pensioners, other government transfer recipients, and self-funded retirees

  • a review of the Producer Price Index (PPI) ‘stage of production’ indexes with the outcome being the release, in the December quarter 2002 issue of Producer Price Indexes, Australia (cat. no. 6427.0), of an updated index structure consistent with the 1996-97 input-output tables as well as improved coverage of prices within the indexes

  • expansion of the range of PPIs in the construction and services industries

  • successful conduct of the first collection of data, in respect of June quarter 2002, on paid leave and superannuation for use in constructing the non-wage cost index

  • technical assistance provided to Thailand to develop price indexes for exports and imports, new houses and selected service industries

  • technical assistance to East Timor to update and improve the East Timor CPI

  • continued significant contributions made to the international PPI and CPI manuals, both of which are expected to be published in the second half of 2003

  • assistance provided to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank in designing and conducting the 2004 International Comparison Program.

Business Indicators

The business indicators component produces a range of sub-annual indicators of current economic activity. These indicators include monthly estimates of turnover by retail and selected service industries and economy wide quarterly estimates of company profits, sales, inventories, wages and new capital expenditure. The capital expenditure series include both actual and expected expenditure. The program also produces quarterly estimates of mineral and petroleum exploration expenditure. The data from the business indicators program are essential inputs into the compilation of quarterly and annual national accounts and input-output tables.

Achievements during the year included:
  • implementation of new statistical infrastructure and the release of the Retail Business Survey, Quarterly Business Indicators Survey and Survey of New Capital Expenditure on a new basis from September quarter 2002 while maintaining the integrity of the time series

  • releasing an article in the December 2002 publication Retail Trade, Australia (cat. no. 8501.0) on the contribution to the monthly retail series of net proceeds received from licensed gambling activities

  • replacing data directly collected from building societies and credit unions via the Quarterly Business Indicators Survey with data from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.

Economy Wide Statistics

The economy wide statistics component is responsible for a range of annual statistics on the financial operations and performance of businesses in the Australian economy. The outputs from this activity provide key inputs into the compilation of Australia’s national accounts.

Achievements during the year included:
  • release of results from the 2000-01 Economic Activity Survey in Business Operations and Industry Performance, Australia (cat. no. 8140.0)

  • the conduct of a review of the methodology for incorporating business income tax data with ABS collected data, with the objective of producing financial performance statistics at the 4 digit (class) level of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification.

Business Demography

The business demography component produces data about the size, structure and performance of businesses to assist policy makers, researchers and the community to understand the behaviour of businesses in the economy.

Achievements during the year included:
  • release of Small Business in Australia, 2001 (cat. no. 1321.0) which includes summary data on the number and employment of small businesses in Australia

  • development of requirements for the June 2003 Survey of Characteristics of Small Business Owners, as a supplementary survey to the June 2003 Monthly Population Survey. The results will be published in Characteristics of Small Business, Australia, 2003 (cat. no. 8127.0) which is due for release early in 2004

  • completion of data consultancies for clients, including the Productivity Commission and Austrade, on small and medium sized business performance using data from the Business Longitudinal Survey and Characteristics of Small Business Survey.

Science and Technology

The science and technology component provides statistics on innovation, research and experimental development, and information technology. Information technology includes statistics on the demand for information technologies by businesses, government, households and farms, and on the supply and distribution of information technology and telecommunications goods and services.

Achievements during the year included:
  • release of statistics on research and development activity undertaken by business, government and nonprofit and higher education institutions: Research and Experimental Development, Businesses, Australia, 2000-01 (cat. no. 8104.0); Research and Experimental Development, Government and Private Non-Profit Organisations, Australia, 2000-01 (cat. no. 8109.0); and Research and Experimental Development, All Sector Summary, Australia, 2000-01 (cat. no. 8112.0)

  • release of statistics on production and use of information and communication technology: Information Technology, Australia, 2000-01 (cat. no. 8126.0); Business Use of Information Technology, 2001-02 (cat. no. 8129.0); and Internet Activity, Australia, March 2002 and September 2002 (cat. no. 8153.0)

  • release of information on highly qualified individuals and those in professional or specialist manager positions, based on 2001 Census of Population and Housing data: Human Resources by Selected Qualifications and Occupations, Australia (cat. no. 8149.0)

  • in consultation with key users, development of a survey of innovation by Australian business

  • revision of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Product classification to better reflect current ICT sector output

  • release in August 2002 of an experimental framework for presentation of knowledge based economy/society indicators: Discussion Paper: Measuring a Knowledge-based Economy and Society - An Australian Framework (cat. no. 1375.0) and commencement of the allocation of statistical indicators to the framework

  • significant statistical input to a multi-agency project (involving the ABS, the Productivity Commission, National Office for the Information Economy, and Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources) to develop Australia’s contribution to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) multi-country project on the impact of information and telecommunication technology on business performance, using survey and taxation data

  • contributions to the development, by the OECD, of statistical standards for science and technology indicators particularly in relation to standards for research and development statistics, biotechnology statistics, electronic commerce and measuring household and business use of information technology.


The agriculture component provides statistics on the structure, performance and production of the agriculture industry. Data collected and disseminated include monthly information on livestock slaughtering, quarterly information on poultry slaughtering and wool receivals by brokers and dealers and detailed annual information on the operations of farm businesses including commodity production and other characteristics such as land management practices. Every five years a census of farm businesses is undertaken to provide a comprehensive picture of the sector and to provide detailed regional and commodity data.

A range of derived statistics, including estimates of the value of agricultural commodities produced, is also provided by the agriculture component.

Achievements during the year included:
  • the conduct of a major review of the agricultural statistics program by Fred Vogel from the United States National Agricultural Statistical Service - Framework for Agricultural Statistics in Australia

  • development of the 2002-03 Agricultural Survey incorporating the recommendations of the above review

  • a move to electronic delivery, via the ABS web site, of the monthly livestock release from January 2003

  • in consultation with key stakeholders, development of a draft Information Development Plan for the agricultural statistics program, and a national agricultural statistics system

  • release of 2000-01 agricultural census data in December 2002.


The mining component conducts annual surveys of the mining, electricity, gas, water and sewerage industries to provide statistics on the structure, financial operations, performance, and other characteristics of these industries. The component also conducts quarterly collections of actual and expected mineral and petroleum exploration expenditure.

Achievements during the year included:
  • implementation of a collection strategy to use data from The New Tax System. The changes include increased scope of the collection which now covers non-employing as well as employing businesses, and the use of business income tax data to reduce the load on small businesses

  • completion of a survey on land access expenditure in mineral exploration for 2001-02. The results of this survey were published in Mineral and Petroleum Exploration, Australia (cat. no. 8412.0).


The manufacturing component provides statistics on the structure, performance and production of the manufacturing industry. Data collected and disseminated include commodity production statistics, and from an annual survey, extensive statistics on the structure, financial operations, performance, and other characteristics of the manufacturing industry.

Achievements during the year included:
  • further development of a collection strategy to optimise the benefits resulting from the introduction of The New Tax System. The changes include increased scope of the collection which now covers non-employing as well as employing businesses, and the use of business income tax data to reduce the load on small businesses

  • the conduct of the five-yearly manufacturing census, in respect of 2001-02, to enable more comprehensive estimates to be produced

  • further development of the approach to collect materials used data via a case studies approach

  • the introduction of a manufacturing statistics theme page on the ABS web site.


The construction component produces statistics on the structure, performance and other characteristics of the construction industry and timely indicators of activity for the three components of construction: residential building; non-residential building; and engineering construction. Sources of data include monthly building approvals reported by approving authorities, and quarterly surveys of building activity and engineering construction. The component also conducts a construction industry survey on an irregular basis to provide measures of the structure of the construction industry as a whole.

Achievements during the year included:
  • development and implementation of strategies to collect information for the 2002-03 reference period on the construction industry and for owner builders

  • development of a framework for construction statistics

  • the publication, in Building Approvals, Australia (cat. no. 8731.0), of a number of research and feature articles that explored issues related to building statistics, such as ‘Building Activity in Sydney and Melbourne’, ‘Inner City Developments’, and ‘Work Done on Housing Jobs each Quarter’.


The transport component provides monthly analytical statistics on sales of new motor vehicles, annual statistics of motor vehicle use, together with the associated motor vehicle censuses which provide data on the characteristics of the Australian vehicle population and a periodic collection of freight movements for road, rail, sea and air modes. Other activities include maintenance of the transport theme page and transport newsletter updates on the ABS web site, irregular production of a directory of transport statistics, occasional compendium publications, and the development and promotion of statistical frameworks and classifications.

Achievements during the year included:
  • a review of the methodology associated with the Survey of Motor Vehicle Use resulting in the release of revised 2000 data along with 2001 data

  • production of a draft Information Development Plan which identifies key transport issues, the data sources available to address those issues and suggested strategies to address data gaps and deficiencies.

Service Industries

The service industries component produces statistics on the size, structure, operations and output of a range of Australian service industries.

Achievements during the year included:
  • completion of the 2000-01 round of publications: Accommodation Industry, Australia (cat. no. 8695.0); Sports Industries, Australia (cat. no. 8686.0); and Gambling Industries, Australia (cat. no. 8684.0)

  • the release of 2001-02 publications: Private Medical Practitioners, Australia (cat. no. 8689.0); Accounting Practices, Australia (cat. no. 8668.0); Legal Practices, Australia (cat. no. 8667.0); Market Research Services, Australia (cat. no. 8556.0); and Consultant Engineering Services, Australia (cat. no. 8693.0)

  • methodological research into surveys of businesses involved in film and video production, music and theatre production, performing arts festivals, television services, real estate services, hire services (both industrial and household), and waste management services

  • user consultations undertaken in relation to proposed surveys of real estate, film and video production, television services, hire, music and theatre production and waste disposal services industries, to be conducted in respect of 2002-03. User consultations have also commenced in relation to the planned 2003-04 surveys of cafes and restaurants, funeral directors, accommodation and museums

  • presentation of an international paper on Statistics of Services for the United Nations Statistical Commission, in March 2003.


The tourism component produces quarterly statistics on capacity and demand for tourist accommodation in Australia. Other activities include the development and promotion of statistical frameworks and classifications, production of regular articles on a range of tourism topics, and maintenance of the tourism statistics theme page on the ABS web site.

Achievements during the year included:
  • a complete restructure of the tourism statistics theme page on the ABS web site to provide improved access to a range of statistical information

  • release of feature articles in Tourism Indicators, Australia (cat. no. 8634.0), including profiles of tourism regions and an article on the impact of the September 2001 terrorist attacks on tourism

  • an update of the Tourism Satellite Account

  • production of a draft Information Development Plan which identifies key tourism issues, the data sources available to address those issues and suggested strategies to address data gaps and deficiencies.


The environment component collects and publishes environment and energy statistics, including environment accounts. Within these fields, the component plays a coordinating role in the collection of data, undertakes research, and implements international environmental accounting frameworks for new collections and current data holdings.

Achievements during the year included:
  • the release of the following publications: Environmental Issues: People’s Views and Practices (cat. no. 4602.0) and Environmental Expenditure, Local Government, Australia (cat. no. 4611.0)

  • the release of first results from the Land Management and Salinity Survey in Salinity on Australian Farms (cat. no. 4615.0)

  • the release of a collection of articles, including some by a range of prominent and expert authors, on the environment and environmental issues in Environment by Numbers: Selected Articles on Australia’s Environment (cat. no. 4617.0)

  • development of a survey of energy production and use by businesses

  • commencing the development of a survey of water use by farmers.

Statistical Consultancy

The statistical consultancy component helps the ABS and external users to meet their information needs through the provision of sample design, statistical methods, methodological reviews, data analysis and statistical training services.

Achievements during the year included:
  • development of new training programs to advance the skills of statistical staff working for official bodies in the areas of data management and managing statistical consultants

  • conducting training programs on best practice in collecting and using statistical information

  • provision of methodological advice to the Australian National Audit Office, including continued assistance with the review of the Centrelink Aged Pension Survey

  • assistance to the Australian Taxation Office on a number of sample design and estimation projects

  • provision of advice on sampling methodology for the Australian Valuation Office in regards to the valuation of the National Library of Australia holdings

  • assistance to the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs in regard to weighting and standard errors for the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia

  • provision of methodological advice to the Department of Family and Community Services in regard to their General Customer Survey.

Statistical Coordination

The Statistical Clearing House (SCH) is responsible for the review and approval of all surveys conducted by, or on behalf of, the Commonwealth government involving 50 or more businesses. The SCH has three main objectives: to reduce the load imposed by the Commonwealth government on business, particularly small business, by eliminating duplication and ensuring that the design and conduct of business surveys follow good practices; to improve the value of survey outputs by improving the quality of survey methods used; and to improve the use of survey outputs by improving access to documentation of these outputs.

Achievements during the year included:
  • completion of 160 reviews, of which 55% have resulted in an improvement to the survey or a reduction in respondent load

  • the conduct of successful seminars on statistical methods to improve statistical practices in the Commonwealth government

  • the development of new marketing material to publicise the SCH to government agencies

  • the development of enhanced networks with other agencies to enable identification of surveys which are in scope of the SCH review.

Australian Economic Indicators

The Australian economic indicators sub-component publishes Australian Economic Indicators (cat. no. 1350.0), a monthly compendium of key national, State and international economic time series. It also contains feature articles, provides a quarterly review of the economy, and reports on an experimental composite leading indicator of the Australian business cycle.

Achievements during the year included:
  • development of infrastructure for sourcing publication data from the ABS Information Warehouse

  • completion of a review of the experimental composite leading indicators of the Australian business cycle. As a result, the ABS will terminate the publication of these indicators from September 2003 onwards.

State and Territory Statistical Services (STSS)

This component provides a flexible and responsive service to meet priority statistical needs of state and territory governments and other important state and territory based clients, in addition to those met by ongoing statistical outputs of the ABS. The STSS project supports the ABS objective of an expanded and improved National Statistical Service within each state and territory. The work is undertaken by ABS regional offices and generally takes the form of statistical consultation (such as design, development and conduct of a survey), statistical analysis, modelling of existing ABS or client data, statistical training, and the presentation of seminars for a broad range of clients. ABS staff are also outposted to state or territory government agencies to
carry out specific short-term statistical assignments.

Through this component, the ABS participates in bodies established by state or territory governments to coordinate their statistical activities and requirements in line with national statistical service objectives. This component also maintains bilateral contact with state and territory government departments and agencies in order to be aware of their needs for statistics, their statistical activities and their use of information from existing collections and to encourage the adoption of uniform statistical standards and practices.

Achievements during the year (and the regional offices involved) included:
  • development and release of statistical products including: publication and electronic data tables on experimental estimates of regional small business statistics, Australia (Queensland); statistical indicators publications (Western Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory); regional profiles (New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory); publications on the characteristics of ‘baby boomers’ (Western Australia and South Australia); a web-based range of current and historical statistical information (Tasmania); and a framework of indicators of regional wellbeing (Victoria)

  • reviews and assessments of state and territory agency data holdings including: assessment of the availability and quality of state and Commonwealth datasets to underpin the families first outcomes evaluation framework (New South Wales); assessments of quality and data management practices for curriculum assessment (Victoria); fines enforcement, court proceedings and recorded crime (Western Australia); various agency needs analyses (South Australia); employment injuries information system and data outputs (Tasmania); the availability and quality of Indigenous identification in key law and justice and education datasets (Northern Territory); and disability, housing and community services (Australian Capital Territory)

  • assistance to state and territory governments with regard to strategic statistical projects including: the Domestic Water Use Survey (New South Wales); report on measuring education participation and attainment (Victoria); suite of web pages on the ABS web site containing a range of analytical articles on social, economic and environmental aspects (Queensland); data validation and analysis of outputs from a survey of Aboriginal child health, and development and assessment of methodologies to estimate Indigenous resident populations for small areas (Western Australia); innovation scorecard report and Indigenous profile report (South Australia); preparation of a profile on older people, and statistical advice and assistance on the development of population issues and policies (Tasmania); the development of primary health care resident populations for health zones (Northern Territory); and a multi-cultural profile (Australian Capital Territory)

  • continuing engagement with state and territory governments about their strategic statistical requirements and their contribution to further development of the National Statistical Service including: continuing development and refinement of state and regional benchmarks (Victoria and Tasmania); and completion of a disability, housing and community services Information Development Plan (Australian Capital Territory).

Rural and Regional Statistics National Centre

The Rural and Regional Statistics National Centre (RRSNC) is responsible for providing leadership for, and coordination and integration of, regional statistics in the ABS. The National Centre is the focus for user liaison on regional statistical needs, including those relevant to key government policy issues.

Achievements during the year included:
  • the development of a rural and regional Information Development Plan (IDP). The IDP will be considered by the RRSNC Advisory Group prior to seeking wider user consultation

  • a review of the dissemination of regional and small area statistics and the development of a strategy for improved dissemination of these data through the ABS web site

  • release of Experimental Estimates, Regional Wage and Salary Earner Statistics, Australia, 1995-96 to 1998-99 (cat. no. 5673.0) in July 2002. These data have been updated to 2001 on ABS electronic services

  • the production, in partnership with the Department of Transport and Regional Services, of a number of regional profiles

  • construction, for the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics, of a postcode to local government area population concordance for 1981-2001 to assist with a major regional income analysis project.

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