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12 Respondents were also able to separately report for instances where: the business was known to have a level of foreign ownership but the exact percentage was unknown (such responses were categorised as 'Level of Foreign Ownership as unknown'). In depth editing and follow up with providers was undertaken in 2016 where ‘ownership not known’ was reported to determine whether there was a level of foreign ownership or whether the business was entirely Australian owned. Ownership status was resolved for nearly all agricultural businesses.
13 For the purposes of the ALWOS, holders of agricultural land leases of five years or longer were considered to be owners of the land. The five year (or longer) period was measured as elapsed time to June 2016 and did not consider how much longer a lease might extend. This is consistent with previous collections.
14 The industry classification used in this publication is the 2006 version of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC). For more information, please refer to Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006 (cat. no. 1292.0).
SCOPE AND COVERAGE
15 The target population of the 2016 ALWOS was all businesses owning or operating agricultural land for agricultural purposes in Australia. This includes businesses that operated agricultural properties (the target population for other ABS agricultural surveys), as well as businesses that owned agricultural land that was not being actively operated for agricultural purposes during the reference period (normally excluded from ABS agricultural surveys).
16 The ALWOS survey’s frame (list of businesses) was taken from the ABS Business Register (ABSBR), supplemented by information from other sources and from information collected during processing which was used to identify businesses of interest.
17 The ABSBR is based on the Australian Business Register (ABR). Most businesses and organisations in Australia are required to obtain an Australian Business Number (ABN) from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) for their business operations. The ABR stores details about businesses and organisations when they register for an ABN.
18 The scope of the 2016 ALWOS included all agricultural businesses from the ABSBR above a minimum size cut-off of $5,000. This measure of size is based primarily on the ABS' Estimated Value of Agricultural Operations (EVAO), which is a combined measure of both agricultural activity and area of holding (in some instances, it also incorporates information derived from the Business Activity Statement turnover). The calculation of EVAO is designed to even-out fluctuations in business value caused by variable climatic and economic conditions, and to enable the size of businesses to be compared across industry (ANZSIC) classes. EVAO does not reflect turnover, income or profit of the agricultural operation.
19 For the 2016 ALWOS a sample of approximately 11,000 businesses were selected from an in-scope population of approximately 142,000 businesses on the ABSBR. The design of this sample took into account the likelihood that a business had some level of foreign ownership, its location (state/territory), industry (e.g. beef farmer, vegetable grower) and the size of the business (measured by the area of its agricultural holdings). Information collected in the 2013 ALWOS and 2016 Agricultural Census was also used to enhance the design of the 2016 survey’s sample. This ensured that the sample would have good coverage of businesses with a likelihood of foreign ownership and would have good coverage of the majority of land used in agricultural industry groups. Other data sources were also used to inform the sample design.
20 The final response rate for the survey was 83%, that is 83% of businesses which were surveyed responded to the survey and contributed to the estimates from the survey
21 Information in the ALWOS was collected through an electronic (web-based) survey form supplemented with paper form collection and phone-based follow-up. As for all ABS agricultural surveys, the form was extensively tested prior to despatch to ensure the questions and associated definitions and concepts would be understood by survey participants.
22 Respondents to the survey were asked to report the level of foreign ownership of their business (as defined using the categories described above under ‘Definitions, concepts and classifications’); the area (in hectares) of agricultural land owned, operated or leased by the business in each state/territory; and the volume of water entitlements (in megalitres) owned or accessed by the business for agricultural purposes in each state/territory. This information was used to determine the total area of agricultural land and volume of water entitlements owned by businesses with a level of foreign ownership nationally and by state/territory.
23 Extensive quality assurance was undertaken to validate the quality of the final estimates produced from the ALWOS, as per other ABS agricultural and other surveys. This included extensive checks during the data collection and processing phase, ongoing research to identify potential businesses of interest to the survey, and intensive follow-up of respondents to ensure the survey had good coverage of the target population.
24 Confrontation (comparison) of the ALWOS estimates against other sources was also undertaken to validate the estimates at aggregate levels. The primary sources of confrontation were estimates from the previous 2010 and 2013 ALWOS as well as estimates of total number of businesses, total area of agricultural land and water use from the 2015-16 Agricultural Census. In addition, the 2016 ALWOS estimated total area of agricultural land was compared to the latest information available on the Register of Foreign Owned Agricultural Land (as at June 2016). Although the estimates from these collections are not all directly comparable (due to differing scope and collection methodologies – see below) they are considered a valuable reference for the expected scale of foreign ownership of agricultural holdings and water entitlements and 2016 ALWOS estimate were in line with expectations from these various confrontation sources.
COMPARABILITY WITH OTHER ABS COLLECTIONS
25 The 2016 ALWOS estimates are comparable with the previous 2010 and 2013 ALWOS estimates as the same methodologies and concepts are used to enable a consistent time series.
26 However, estimates of the total number of businesses with agricultural holdings and total area of agricultural land from the 2016 ALWOS are not fully comparable with estimates from the 2015-16 Agricultural Census or previous annual Rural Environment and Agricultural Commodity Survey (REACS) outputs due to differences in scope across the annual ABS agricultural collections:
27 The statistical unit underpinning the ALWOS also varies slightly to that used in other ABS agricultural collections. ALWOS collects information for businesses at the Australian Business Number (ABN) unit level. The Agricultural Census and the REACS also collects information for businesses at the ABN level, however these are split into smaller units at unique geographies to support finer level geographic outputs.
RELIABILITY OF ESTIMATES
28 The estimates in this publication are based on information obtained from a sample drawn from the total population of businesses in scope of the collection, and are subject to sampling variability; that is, they may differ from the figures that would have been produced if all businesses had been included in the survey.
29 One measure of the likely difference is given by the standard error (SE) which indicates the extent to which an estimate might vary by chance because only a sample was taken. There are about two chances in three that a ‘sample’ estimate will differ by less than one SE from the figure that would have been obtained if all businesses had responded (known as the 66% confidence interval (CI)) and about nineteen chances in twenty that the difference will be less than two SEs (95% CI).
30 The SEs for ALWOS have been produced using standard ABS systems and are based on well understood and accepted practices. However, in the case of estimates of small proportions the SE may not be the best indicator of sampling variability. In the ALWOS this has resulted in some SEs that would generate CIs that have negative lower bounds. As a result the ABS has provided CI tables which more accurately consider the variability and consequently do not produce negative estimates of counts or proportions of businesses. These CI tables provide an improved estimate of sampling error, but may also lead to cases where the estimate no longer coincides with the centre of the CIs.
31 In this publication, 'sampling' variability of the estimates is measured by the relative standard error (RSE) which is obtained by expressing the SE as a percentage of the estimate to which it refers. Most published estimates have RSEs less than 10%. For some states and territories with limited production of certain commodities, RSEs are greater than 10%. Estimates that have an estimated RSE between 10% and 25% should be used with caution as they are subject to sampling variability too high for some purposes. Estimates with an RSE between 25% and 50% should also be used with caution as they are subject to sampling variability too high for most practical purposes. Estimates with an RSE greater than 50% are considered too unreliable for general use.
Users should consider both the annotation and the CI tables before making a final assessment on the quality of these level estimates.
32 A table with RSEs for selected estimates in the publication follows:
ROUNDING AND CONFIDENTIALITY
33 Where figures for individual states or territories have been suppressed for reasons of confidentiality, they have been included in relevant national totals. In addition, some categories have been combined, for example, combining the Australian Capital Territory data with New South Wales data.
34 Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals.
35 ABS publications can be accessed under the Statistics page on the ABS Website. The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the website which details products to be released in the week ahead.
ABS DATA AVAILABLE ON REQUEST
36 As well as the statistics included in this publications, the ABS may have other relevant data available on request. Inquiries should be made to the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.
37 ABS publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated. Without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.
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