Insights into Government Finance Statistics, December 2021


Economic overview

Government fiscal support through the quarter continued to target healthcare spending, however provision of assistance to households, businesses and non-profit institutions decreased from September quarter 2021. Governments eased COVID-19 restrictions in the December quarter, with most States and Territories experiencing fewer days in lockdown in the December quarter when compared to the September quarter.

Change (a) in days within the quarter where at least one area of the state was in lockdown, September to December quarter 2021

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Change (a) in days within the quarter where at least one area of the state was in lockdown, September to December quarter 2021:

New South Wales -81

Victoria -53

Queensland -12

South Australia -8

Western Australia -1

Tasmania +3

Northern Territory +20

Australian Capital Territory -50


  1. approximate

State and territory governments continued to provide subsidies direct to lockdown impacted businesses through the Commonwealth-State Joint Business Support Programs (BSPs). Commonwealth government also continued the support to households in lockdown affected areas through COVID-19 Disaster Payments.

Commonwealth, state, and territory governments continued to expense costs associated with the administration of COVID-19 vaccines. Other healthcare spending remained elevated, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, due to ongoing COVID-19 health response expenditure on frontline staff, testing and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Through the year, businesses recovered from COVID-19 lockdowns, and the labour market also continued to improve. Commonwealth taxation increased across company income tax, personal income tax and GST, while states received more payroll and gambling tax.

Government fiscal position

Net operating balance

In December quarter 2021 the net operating balance for all levels of general government (herein referred to as total) recovered strongly after a large fall in September quarter 2021.

  • in December quarter 2021 total net operating balance increased $39.1 billion to ‑$5.4 billion
  • this was $32.7 billion higher through the year than December quarter 2020 following the second wave of COVID-19 in 2020.
  1. original, current prices

Total expenses

Total expenses paid by general government decreased 3.1% from September quarter 2021 to $216.3 billion due to reduced spending on business support programs and COVID-19 Disaster Payments. Total expenses also decreased 1.0% from December quarter 2020, in line with decreased COVID-19 related subsidy payments.

Total revenue

Total revenue received by general government increased 18.0% from September quarter 2021 to $210.9 billion due to a rise in taxation revenue. Total revenue also increased 16.8% from December quarter 2020 as an improved economic outlook increased company income tax, personal income tax, and stamp duties on conveyances.

State and local net operating balance

  • State and local general government net operating balance rose $9.9 billion from September quarter 2021 to -$4.6 billion, driven by New South Wales (up $7.6 billion), Victoria (up $4.2 billion), and Queensland (up $1.4 billion).

  • All states except Queensland ($1.0 billion) recorded a negative net operating balance in December quarter 2021.

  • Western Australia (down $3.6 billion) recorded only its second negative net operating balance (-$0.3 billion) since September quarter 2019.

  • State and local general government net operating balance increased $5.0 billion since December quarter 2020, driven by Queensland (up $2.3 billion) and Victoria (up $2.2 billion).

Taxation revenue

Total taxation revenue

Total taxation revenue increased 24.9% (up $35.5 billion) from September quarter 2021, the strongest quarter on quarter percentage increase since the series began in 2014. This followed a large decrease in September quarter 2021, which was the largest quarter on quarter decrease on record.

Commonwealth taxation revenue

Commonwealth taxation revenue increased 29.8% (up $33.3 billion) to $145.2 billion. The quarter-on-quarter increase was due to:

  • Personal income tax up 46.7% (increased $18.7 billion),
  • Company income tax up 22.9% (increased $6.2 billion), and
  • GST up 9.5% (increased $1.7 billion).

Taxation revenue, Commonwealth, key drivers, time series

The strength in Personal income tax reflected improved employment conditions, with over 300,000 additional employed people in December quarter than in September quarter (c). Average wages also increased in the quarter, with the Wage Price Index increasing 0.7% (d).

  1. Labour Force Australia, Seasonally Adjusted data series, September and December 2021

  2. Wage Price Index, Australia, December 2021

The strength in Company income tax was due to higher company profitability. Higher near-term commodity prices, particularly for coal, helped drive mining company profits. The financial sector also contributed to increases in company income tax, with increased profitability in the sector due to continued strength in the housing market and new loan commitments.

The increase in GST was driven by improved business conditions, including an increase in retail trade.

State and local government taxation revenue

State and local taxation revenue increased 6.9% (up $2.2 billion) to $33.5 billion. The quarter-on-quarter increase was due to:

  • Other stamp duties on financial and capital transactions (increased $0.8 billion),
  • Stamp duties on conveyances up 8.4% (increased $0.7 billion),
  • Taxes on gambling up 25.7% (increased $0.3 billion), and
  • Payroll tax up 5.1% (increased $0.3 billion).

Taxation revenue, State and local, selected key drivers, time series

The strength in other stamp duties on financial and capital transactions included the sale of WestConnex.

Stamp duties on conveyances continued to grow as house prices and the number of transactions increased in December quarter 2021.

Taxes on gambling recovered after a steep decline last quarter. Within gambling taxation, the largest recoveries were casino taxes (up 193.0%) and gambling devices (up 21.5%). Race and other sports betting continued to increase (up 24.4%), which is the 8th double-digit quarterly percentage increase since December quarter 2018.

Payroll tax also recovered after a decline in September quarter 2021. This was due to an increase in the number of people employed, as well as an increase in wages in the quarter.

Public investment

Public investment in new assets

Total public investment in new assets (e) rose by 10.6% (up $2.5 billion) through the year from December quarter 2020, due to rises across all major levels of government for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. Universities saw a return to growth for the first quarter since December 2019.

  1. Includes acquisitions of new non-financial fixed produced assets. Second-hand asset acquisitions and sales between sectors are excluded from this measure.
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