5501.0.55.002 - Government Financial Estimates, Commonwealth, Electronic Delivery, 2002-03  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/07/2002   
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This electronic release presents government finance statistics (GFS) on an accrual accounting basis for the Commonwealth government as follows:

  • Operating statements for 1998-99 to 2002-03;
  • Cash flow statements for 1998-99 to 2002-03; and
  • Balance sheets at 30 June 1999 to 2002.

A table containing statistics for total general government expenses by purpose at the 2-digit GPC level is also included for 1998-99 to 2002-03.

The sectors available in this release include General Government, Public Non-financial Corporations, and Non-financial Public Sector.

The statistics presented for the years 1998-99 to 2000-01 represent audited actual data while the statistics presented for 2001-02 and 2002-03 are preliminary and forward estimates respectively.

Wherever the term 'state' is used, this term includes the two territories. Therefore 'state' refers to 'state and territory'.

While the statistics presented in this release only cover the Commonwealth government, further electronic releases will occur through to late October 2002 covering the various state governments as their estimates become available. All Australia government tables will be released on 30 October 2002.

This series of electronic releases replaces the former printed publication Government Financial Estimates (Cat. no. 5501.0).


1 The system of GFS is designed to provide statistical information on public sector entities in Australia classified in a uniform and systematic way. GFS enables policy makers and other users to analyse the financial operations and the financial position of the public sector at either the level of a specific government, sector, or a particular set of transactions. The system is based on international standards set out in the System of National Accounts 1993 (SNA93) and the International Monetary Fund's A Manual of Government Finance Statistics.

2 GFS are presented in the form of operating statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements and reconciliation statements. GFS analytical measures included are net operating balance, net lending/borrowing, net worth, change in net worth, and surplus/deficit (for descriptions, see paragraph 7 of these notes).

3 Prior to 1998-99, GFS were compiled on a cash basis. Users should note that the move to an accrual basis of recording has required a change in data sources and methodologies for some jurisdictions from 1998-99 onwards. Therefore, the surplus/deficit series from 1998-99 are not directly comparable to the 'deficit' series for earlier years previously published in GFS publications.


4 An Information Paper (Information Paper: Accruals-based Government Finance Statistics (cat. no. 5517.0)) aimed at helping users understand the statistics presented in this release was issued on 13 March 2000. That information paper outlines the conceptual changes which have been implemented in moving from a cash to an accrual basis of recording.

5 Users analysing previous cash based GFS publications should refer to Government Finance Statistics, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5514.0), which relates to cash based GFS. An accrual GFS version of this manual is expected to be available on the ABS web site later this year.

6 The central feature of the new accruals GFS conceptual framework is that it is based on an integrated recording of stocks and flows. Stocks refer to the holdings of assets and liabilities at a point in time which are valued at current market prices. Flows are economic events and other occurrences, recorded in the period in which they occur, that cause changes in the value of stocks through the creation, transformation, exchange, transfer or extinction of value. Thus, the stock of assets and liabilities recorded at the beginning of a period changes as a result of flows during the period, moving to new levels at the end of the period.


7 The system of GFS provides details of revenues, expenses, cash flows and assets and liabilities of the Australian public sector and comprises units which are owned and/or controlled by the Commonwealth, state and local governments. These units are grouped as follows:
  • General Government - a sector which includes all of the agencies of government such as government departments, offices and other bodies engaged in providing services free of charge or at prices significantly below their cost of production and non-market nonprofit institutions which are controlled and mainly financed by government.
  • Public Non-financial Corporations - a subsector comprising public sector corporations which are mainly engaged in providing market non-financial goods and services. Includes corporations which aim at covering most of their expenses from revenue.
  • Public Financial Corporations - a subsector comprising public sector corporations which are engaged in providing financial intermediation services or auxiliary financial services. Central Borrowing Authorities of state governments are included in this subsector; and
  • Non-financial Public Sector - a subsector formed by the consolidation of the General Government and Public Non-financial Corporation sectors.
  • Total Public Sector - the consolidated total of the General Government, Public Non-financial Corporations and Public Financial Corporations sectors.

GFS measures

8 The analytical GFS measures are defined as follows:
  • Net Operating Balance - the difference between GFS revenues and GFS expenses. This measure reflects the sustainability of government operations.
  • Net Lending/Borrowing - this is equal to net operating balance minus the total net acquisition of non-financial assets. A positive result reflects a net lending position and a negative result reflects a net borrowing position.
  • Net Worth - is an economic measure of 'wealth' calculated as assets less liabilities for the general government sector and as assets less liabilities less shares and other contributed capital for the public non-financial corporation and public financial corporation sectors. GFS net worth of unlisted corporations will always be zero because owners' equity (shares and other contributed capital) is taken to be the difference between total assets and liabilities. GFS net worth for listed corporations will be positive or negative depending upon the difference between the value of shares carried on balance sheet and the value of traded shares. As the equity of public non-financial corporations and public financial corporations held by the general government sector consolidate out at total public sector level, only equity held outside the public sector will appear in the consolidated balance sheets.
  • Change in Net Worth - this is the change in net worth between two periods. Change in net worth due to transactions is also equivalent to the net operating balance and excludes the impact of revaluations and other changes in volume of assets and liabilities.
  • Surplus/Deficit - this cash-based measure is calculated as:
Net Cash flows from operating activities
plus Net cash flows from investments in non-financial assets
less Distributions paid
less Acquisitions of assets under finance leases and similar arrangements.

9 The Surplus(+)/Deficit(-) measure described here is conceptually the same as the Deficit(+)/Surplus(-) used in the former cash-based GFS system. Note that there has been a reversal of the sign convention between the two systems. A 'surplus' in the accruals-based system is presented as a positive value. In practice, however, the Surplus(+)/Deficit(-) in the accruals-based GFS system has been derived using different methodologies which result in a break in the time series across the two systems. The Surplus(+)/Deficit(-) is the cash-based equivalent of the GFS Net Lending/Borrowing described above. Although the Surplus(+)/Deficit(-) is a cash-based measure and does not capture non-cash items such as accruing unfunded superannuation or depreciation, it does, however, include some items of a non-cash nature to avoid a large break in the continuity of this measure.

10 The net debt measure, previously published in the now discontinued publication Public Sector Financial Assets and Liabilities, Australia (cat. no. 5513.0), is included in the balance sheet presentation together with net financial worth, which is the difference between total financial assets and total liabilities. In GFS balance sheets, shares and other contributed capital are treated as liabilities by convention.


Main Classifications

11 The main GFS classifications are described below:
  • 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.
  • Type of Asset Classification - this classification is used to identify whether expenditure on non-financial assets (net) was on produced assets (e.g. dwellings and transport equipment) and non-produced assets (e.g. land). In accordance with SNA93 requirements, this classification distinguishes between produced (tangible and intangible) and non-produced (tangible and intangible) assets.
  • Government Purpose Classification - this classification is used to group operating expenses and expenditure by purpose (education, health, etc.) with similar functions to facilitate the study of the broad function of public sector spending and the effectiveness of this spending in meeting government policy objectives.
  • Taxes Classification - this classification dissects this major form of government revenue according to type of tax collected.
  • Source/Destination Classification - this classification identifies selected flows and stocks between units within and outside the public sector and this information is used in compiling consolidated statistics.


Data sources

12 The statistics shown in this release are based on information provided in, or underlying, the published accounting statements and reports of governments and their authorities plus additional dissections of reported transactions and balances. The valuation of stocks and flows in source data are valued in accordance with requirements specified in accounting standards, which generally do not require universal or continual application of current values.

13 For the Commonwealth government and state governments the primary data sources are:

  • public accounts and budget management systems of state Treasuries and the Commonwealth Department of Finance and Administration;
  • annual reports of departments and authorities;
  • budget papers; and
  • reports of Auditors-General.

14 For local government, the main data sources are annual statements of accounts and questionnaires completed by local authorities.


15 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.

16 Consolidation is particularly important at the state government level where a significant proportion of total expenses/payments are financed by Commonwealth government grants. Similarly, an appreciable part of the expenditure undertaken by state public non-financial corporations is financed by grants from state governments.


17 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.

18 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.

19 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:
  • water and sewerage undertakings in Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia are operated exclusively by state authorities, but are run by local governments in other jurisdictions; and
  • government transport undertakings are operated exclusively by state authorities in all states except Queensland where bus transport is operated by the local government sector.


Uniform Presentation Framework

20 Following the May 1991 Premiers' Conference, the Commonwealth 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.

21 Australian governments have, since budget year 1992-93, 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 decision on these issues. In 1999, the uniform presentation framework was revised from a cash to an accruals basis and the accrual uniform presentation framework was to be implemented beginning with most jurisdictions' Budgets for 2000-2001.

22 Variations between ABS statistics and those presented by the jurisdictions can exist because the ABS may:
  • disagree with classification treatments applied by jurisdictions;
  • employ a different consolidation methodology to those used in jurisdiction Treasuries;
  • apply reconciliation adjustments when it consolidates data for all jurisdictions and compares annual data with quarterly data used in compiling the national accounts; and
  • include data from time to time which were not available when a jurisdiction's GFS presentations were published (e.g. major asset sales).

23 The first two differences are generally minor, but the last difference can be significant.

Australian Accounting Standard 31 (AAS31)

24 AAS31 'Financial Reporting by Governments' has been adopted by most Australian governments in the preparation of their financial statements. Accounting reports prepared under AAS31 and statistical reports prepared on a GFS basis serve different purposes and are aimed at different sets of users. Thus, differences between GFS and AAS31 analytical measures (GFS net operating balance and AAS31 operating surplus/deficit for example) can be expected. Because of this, reconciliation statements identifying the differences are provided in this release. Descriptions of GFS/AAS31 reconciliations are outlined in Section 6 of the ABS publication Information Paper: Accruals-based Government Finance Statistics (cat. no. 5517.0).

Australian System of National Accounts (ASNA)

25 While GFS and ASNA share the same conceptual framework (SNA93), there are methodological differences between GFS and ASNA analytical measures (GFS and ASNA net worth and net lending/borrowing for example). The main differences in the net/lending borrowing measures relate to adjustments for market rates of interest, consumption of fixed capital and ownership transfer costs between the GFS and ASNA. Descriptions of GFS/ASNA reconciliations are outlined in Section 6 of the ABS publication Information Paper: Accruals-based Government Finance Statistics (cat. no. 5517.0).


26 Users may refer to the following publications which contain related information:

Australian National Accounts: Financial Accounts (Cat. no. 5232.0) - issued quarterly
Australian System of National Accounts (Cat. no. 5204.0) - issued annually
Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product (Cat. no. 5206.0) - issued quarterly
Government Finance Statistics (Cat. no. 5512.0) - issued annually
Government Finance Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (Cat. no. 5514.0) - latest edition 1994
Information Paper: Developments in Government Finance Statistics (Cat. no. 5516.0) - issued February 1997
Information Paper: Accruals-based Government Finance Statistics (Cat. no. 5517.0) - issued March 2000
Statistical Concepts Library - issued April 2000 on CD-ROM and now available on ABS website. Changes to material included on the web are updated as they become available. A CD-ROM is available by special order and will be a "snapshot" of the web material at the time the order is received.
Taxation Revenue, Australia (Cat. no. 5506.0) - issued annually



Australian Accounting Standard 31 (Financial reporting by governments) is the principal accounting standard applicable to the Commonwealth and state governments.

Abnormal/extraordinary items

Abnormal items are transactions that occur within the normal operations of an enterprise but are abnormal due to their size. Extraordinary items are transactions that occur outside ordinary operations and are not of a recurring nature.

Accrued recording

A recording method in which revenues, expenses, lending and borrowing are recorded as they are earned, accrued or incurred regardless of when payment is made or received.

Advances paid (net)

Lending by public authorities with the aim of achieving government policy objectives less repayment of past lending.

Advances received (net)

Borrowing, net of repayments, from other public authorities.


Instruments or entities over which ownership rights are enforced by institutional units and from which economic benefits may be derived by holding them, or using them, over a period of time. Assets are distinguished between non-financial and financial.

Balance sheet

A statement of an entity's financial position at a specific point in time. Contains information on assets, liabilities and owners' equity at a specific date. Also called Statement of Financial Position or Statement of Assets and Liabilities.

Benefits to households in goods and services

Expenditure by government on goods and services produced by market producers that are provided directly to households as social transfers in kind.

Borrowing (net)

Net borrowing by public authorities from public and private bodies and individuals within Australia and from abroad. Net borrowing is gross borrowing less the repayment of past borrowing.

Capital grant expenses

Unrequited payments by government to finance the acquisition of non-financial capital assets by the recipient, or compensate the recipient for damage or destruction of capital assets, or increase the financial capital of the recipient.

Change in net worth (CNW)

This is the change in net worth between two periods. Change in net worth due to transactions is also equivalent to the net operating balance and excludes the impact of revaluations and other changes in volume of assets and liabilities.

Current grant expenses

Direct provision of goods and services of a current nature by general government and public corporations.

Current monetary transfers to households

Monetary transfers by government to individuals or households, who are not required to provide any significant amount of goods or services in return, e.g. old age pensions and unemployment benefits. ‘Work for the dole’ schemes are included as the main purpose of such schemes is the transfer of monetary benefits and acquisition of employment skills. Also refers to personal benefit payments to Australian citizens resident overseas.

Deposits received (net)

Net increase in cash held by a government unit as a result of a net change to its liabilities generated by taking deposits from a private body or other government unit.

Depreciation and amortisation

Allocations of the cost of assets over their useful life. Depreciation usually relates to non-current tangible assets which are written off because they wear out or become obsolete. Amortisation usually relates to assets on a fixed lease, non-current intangible assets or natural resources which are no longer available for use at the end of the period.

Distributions paid

Cash transfers by public enterprises to their parent entities and other shareholders in the form of dividends, transfer of profits or other similar distributions.

Expenditure on non-financial assets (net)

Net expenditure on new and second-hand fixed assets, land and intangible assets excluding capitalised interest. Fixed assets are durable goods intended to be employed in the production process for longer than a year.

Finance leases

Leases and other arrangements which effectively transfer most of the risks and benefits associated with ownership of the leased property from the lessor to the lessee.

GFS net lending/borrowing (NLB)

This is defined as the NOB less net acquisition of non-financial assets.

GFS net worth (NW)

This is assets less liabilities and shares/contributed capital. For the general government sector, net worth is assets less liabilities since shares and contributed capital is zero.

Grants and subsidies received

Cash received from voluntary transfers by government and other entities.

Gross domestic product (GDP)

Total market value of goods and services produced in Australia within a given period after deducting the cost of goods used up in the process of production, but before deducting allowances for the consumption of fixed capital (depreciation).

Interest expense

This is made up of nominal interest on unfunded superannuation and interest other than nominal interest on unfunded superannuation. Nominal interest on unfunded superannuation is the imputed interest accrued during the period on unfunded superannuation liabilities. See 'Superannuation expense' below.

Interest income

Income accrued by owners of financial assets such as deposits, securities other than shares, loans and accounts receivable in return for providing funds to other entities.


Obligations to provide economic value to other institutional units.

Net operating balance (NOB)

This is calculated as GFS revenue minus GFS expenses. It is equivalent to the change in net worth arising from transactions.

Other financing transactions

Total financing less advances received (net), less borrowing (net), less deposits received (net) plus distributions paid. This is a residual calculation within cash flow statements and hence encompasses any errors and omissions in the components used to derive it.

Sales of goods and services

Revenue from the direct provision of goods and services by general government and public corporations.


Equal to NOB minus capital revenue (capital grants and assets acquired below fair value) and capital transfer expenses.

Superannuation expense

In statistical terms, superannuation expense is a component of 'compensation of employees'. Superannuation expense in a period represents the increase in superannuation liability due to services provided by employees in that period.


Net cash flows from operating activities plus net cash flows from investments in non-financial assets, less distributions paid, less assets acquired under finance leases and similar arrangements.

Unrequited payments

Payments made for which nothing is received directly in return.