5519.0.55.001 - Government Finance Statistics, Australia, Dec 2008 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 03/03/2009   
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Statistics presented in Government Finance Statistics, Australia (cat. no. 5519.0.55.001) are based on information provided in, or underlying the published accounting statements and reports of governments and their authorities. For the general government sector for the Commonwealth Government and all state governments except South Australia, the primary quarterly data sources are public accounts and budget management systems of state treasuries and the Commonwealth Department of Finance and Deregulation. For South Australia, quarterly Government Finance Statistics (GFS) are collected from an Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) survey of the largest state government departments. For the public non-financial corporation sector, GFS is also collected from a survey of the largest corporations in several jurisdictions where the relevant treasury does not provide that data as part of its accounting reporting. For local government, the main data source is a quarterly GFS survey of local governments from all jurisdictions.

For information on the institutional environment of the ABS, including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.


The term 'Government Finance Statistics' refers to statistics that measure the financial activities of governments and reflect the impact of those activities on other sectors of the economy. The Australian 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 users to analyse the financial operations and financial position of the public sector by the level of government, institutional sector or set of transactions. The system of GFS is based on international standards set out in the System of National Accounts 1993 (SNA93) and the International Monetary Fund's Government Finance Statistics Manual 2001 (GFSM 2001).

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.

This release presents GFS on an accrual accounting basis for each jurisdiction for the general government sector and the non-financial public sector. For this quarterly GFS release, GFS tables are shown for the operating statement only.


Quarterly GFS are released within 3 months of the end of the quarter.


For practical reasons the ABS does not attempt to cover all economic activity of the public sector in its GFS system. Undercoverage can arise because units are omitted or because some activities are not covered. This only occurs when the economic activity of these units is relatively insignificant.

The main influence on the accuracy of GFS data are non-sampling error. Non-sampling error arises from inaccuracies in collecting, recording and processing the data. The most significant of these errors are misreporting of data and processing errors. Every effort is made to minimise error by working closely with data providers, training of processing staff and efficient data processing procedures.

Revisions are made to the quarterly GFS data as required as a result of new and updated information available from providers.


In 1998-99, the ABS adopted an accrual basis of recording for its GFS. Prior to this the ABS GFS was cash based. In addition to the information published, some GFS data are available back to 1961-62. However, due to the different compilation and data sources, cash flow data from 1998-99 onwards are not directly comparable with earlier cash data. The ABS has not established a quantitative measure of this break in series because the existing data sources do not permit this. Data on a pure accruals basis are only available from 1998-99.

In 1991, the Commonwealth and state governments resolved to implement a uniform presentation framework in their budget documents to introduce uniformity into the presentation of GFS. Variations between ABS statistics and those presented by the jurisdictions can exist because the ABS may:

  • have a different view on 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;
  • include data which were not available when a jurisdiction's GFS presentations were published.

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. However, the statistics also reflect real differences between the administrative and accounting arrangements of the various jurisdictions and these differences need to be taken into account when making interstate comparisons. For example, only a state level of government exists in the ACT. The ACT government performs a number of functions which are undertaken by local government authorities in other jurisdictions.

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'.

Australian Accounting Standard AASB 1049 'Whole of Government and General Government Sector Financial Reporting' will be adopted by all Australian general governments in the preparation of their financial statements from 1 January 2008, with early adoption permitted. This standard contains measures similar to GFS; however, there are also differences in treatments of some transactions.

While GFS and the Australian System of National Accounts 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).


The publication Government Finance Statistics, Australia (cat. no. 5519.0.55.001) contains Explanatory Notes and Glossary that provide information on the data sources, terminology, classifications and other technical aspects associated with these statistics.

Detailed information on the concepts, sources and methods used in compiling GFS can be found in Australian System of Government Finance Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5514.0.55.001) electronic version or (cat. no. 5514.0) PDF version.


If the information you require is not available from the published data then 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 or email <client.services@abs.gov.au>, or to the Public Finance section on email <public.finance@abs.gov.au>.