Insights into Government Finance Statistics, March 2022


Economic overview

Government fiscal support through March quarter 2022 targeted healthcare and support for individuals and businesses affected by floods in Queensland and New South Wales.

Governments further eased COVID-19 restrictions. International border restrictions eased for fully vaccinated visa holders, including tourists, from 21 February 2022.  No major population centres were in lockdown. As COVID-19 cases rose Governments increased spending on healthcare. Testing, personal protective equipment, and COVID-19 vaccine programs were the focus, including the commencement of vaccines for children aged 5-11.

There was a shift in COVID-19 testing from polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests to rapid antigen tests (RATs) during this quarter. The Commonwealth, state and territory governments invested over $1 billion to distribute RATs to concession card holders and the healthcare, education, and aged care sectors. The Western Australia government provided free RATs to all residents, while other state and territory governments implemented various programs to distribute free RATs in schools and early childhood education and care (ECEC) centres. This shift saw a decline in spending on PCR tests compared to the previous quarter.

Severe flooding events in Queensland and New South Wales increased Commonwealth assistance to households and businesses through the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment and other supports. The Australian Defence Force deployed over 7,000 personnel as part of Operation Flood Assist 2022.

The commencement of military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine increased Commonwealth government expenses.

Taxation revenue fell in most jurisdictions, in part due to the ongoing economic impacts of COVID-19 and weather events. The main contributors to the fall were:

  • income tax paid by superannuation funds, company income tax and goods and services tax for the Commonwealth, and
  • stamp duties and land tax for states and territories.

The fall in taxation revenue in a March quarter following a December quarter rise is seasonal. This was partially offset by increased personal income tax paid to the Commonwealth and gambling taxes from the states and territories.

Government fiscal position

Net operating balance

Net operating balance rose for all levels of general government (herein referred to as total). This followed a strong rebound in December quarter 2021.

In March quarter 2022 total net operating balance:

  • increased $3.2 billion to ‑$2.2 billion, and
  • was $18.2 billion higher through the year than March quarter 2021.
  1. original, current prices

Total expenses

  • Total expenses remain elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels.

  • Total expenses paid by general government decreased 4.6% from December quarter 2021 to $206.6 billion due to reduced spending on business support programs.

  • Total expenses increased 4.4% from March quarter 2021, in line with increased Disaster Payments due to COVID-19 and floods in Queensland and New South Wales.

Total revenue

  • Total revenue received by general government decreased 3.2% from December quarter 2021 to $204.4 billion due to a fall in taxation and dividend revenues. Partially offsetting this was an increase in sales of goods and services as public facilities reopened, and royalty income with a strong increase in commodity prices.
  • Total revenue increased 15.2% from March quarter 2021 as an improved economic outlook increased company income tax, personal income tax, royalty income and stamp duties on conveyances.

State and local net operating balance

State and local general government net operating balance rose $3.4 billion from December quarter 2021 to -$1.2 billion.

  • New South Wales saw the largest increase (up $1.3 billion),
  • Tasmania had no change and the Northern Territory fell (-$0.2 billion), and
  • all other jurisdictions rose.
  • All states except Queensland ($1.6 billion) and Western Australia ($0.2 billion) recorded a negative net operating balance.

Through the year, net operating balance increased $3.7 billion from March quarter 2021.

  • The largest increases were seen in Queensland (up $2.4 billion) and Victoria (up $0.9 billion).
  • Western Australia was the only state to fall (down $0.4 billion).

Taxation revenue

Total taxation revenue

Total taxation revenue decreased 5.7% (down $10.3 billion) from December quarter 2021. This followed a large quarterly rise in December quarter 2021, which was the largest since the start of the series in 2014.

Commonwealth taxation revenue

Commonwealth taxation revenue decreased 6.8% (down $9.8 billion) to $135.4 billion. The fall in taxation revenue in March quarter 2022 following a rise in December quarter 2021 is seasonal. The main contributors were:

  • 76.7% fall in income tax paid by superannuation funds (down $11.0 billion),
  • 15.1% fall in company income tax (down $5.0 billion), and
  • 8.5% fall in goods and services tax (GST) (down $1.7 billion).

A 16.4% rise in personal income tax (up $9.6 billion), reflected continued improvement of employment conditions, with over 100,000 additional employed people in March quarter 2022 than in December quarter 2021 (b).

  1. Labour Force Australia, Seasonally Adjusted data series, December 2021 and March 2022

State and local government taxation revenue

State and local taxation revenue decreased 1.3% (down $0.4 billion) to $33.1 billion, following increases in each of the previous six consecutive quarters. The main contributor to the fall was other stamp duties on financial and capital transactions following the sale of WestConnex reported in December quarter 2021. Stamp duty on conveyances and land tax also decreased.

This was partially offset by:

  • 18.9% rise in taxes on gambling ($0.3 billion),
  • 1.6% rise in payroll tax ($0.1 billion), and
  • 3.5% rise in motor vehicle taxes ($0.1 billion).

The main contributors to taxes on gambling were:

  • 36.6% rise in gambling devices (up $0.3 billion),
  • 19.1% rise in private lotteries (up $0.1 billion), and
  • 20.2% fall in race and other sports betting (down $0.1 billion).

The increase in payroll tax reflected:

  • an increased number of people employed, and
  • the introduction of the mental health and wellbeing surcharge in Victoria from 1 January 2022, payable on taxable wages.

Public investment

Public investment in new assets

Total public investment in new assets (c) rose 12.2% (up $2.6 billion) compared to March quarter 2021. Investment across all major levels of government rose.

  • Commonwealth general government rose 34.0% (up $0.9 billion), driven by investment in building projects, such as the Centres for National Resilience to assist with public health and community emergencies.
  • State and local general government rose 9.3% (up $1.2 billion), led by Victoria, Western Australia, New South Wales, and Queensland.
  • Public non-financial corporations rose 8.1% (up $0.4 billion), driven by the contributions of state and territory corporations.
  • Universities rose 13.0% (up $0.1 billion), reflecting a continued recovery after many projects were cancelled or delayed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  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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