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The Economic Statistics Program provides a range of statistics that are used by governments, businesses and community groups to: formulate and assess economic policies (at both macro and micro level); evaluate economic performance; understand the drivers of economic growth; and understand the structure of, and the emerging trends in, the Australian economy. State, territory and regional dimensions of these issues are important, and emphasis is given to servicing these statistical needs. The ABS plays an active role in the international comparability of economic statistics.
In addition, the Economic Statistics Program provides a range of environment and energy statistics, and also provides a focal point for the ABS to meet the growing need for information in this area. These data directly assist in the management of the nation’s environmental and natural resources. Regional dimensions of the data are of particular importance and the ABS has invested in methods aimed at improving regional environmental data.
A complete list of the areas within the Economic Statistics Program is included at the end of this chapter.
The ABS framework for economic statistics is based on the United Nations System of National Accounts 1993 (SNA). The SNA provides a comprehensive framework for compiling economic data in a coherent and consistent manner for the purposes of economic analysis, and the compilation of national accounts in particular. A range of other connected international standards is also used including the Balance of Payments Manual (BPM), the standards on Government Finance Statistics, manuals on Consumer and Producer Price Indexes, and Research and Development Expenditure.
For environmental statistics, the ABS is engaged in international collaboration on the implementation of a framework to support environment and energy statistics known as the System of Environmental-Economic Accounts (SEEA). The SEEA is aligned with the SNA and will meet the needs of users for a coherent and consistent data system that allows for integrated environmental-economic analyses (for example, links of resource use and emissions to economic growth and distribution of income and wealth).
The main economic indicators released by the Economic Statistics Program are the quarterly national accounts (containing the latest estimates of gross domestic product (GDP) and household saving); the quarterly consumer, producer and house price indexes; the quarterly balance of payments; the quarterly wage price index; the quarterly business indicators publication; and the monthly retail trade publication. These sub-annual releases provide a comprehensive picture of Australia’s economic performance and form the basis for economic commentary, analysis and policy development.
A wide range of other statistics is also produced. The sub-annual statistics focus on more targeted areas of the economy such as capital expenditure, building activity, government finance statistics, housing finance and tourist accommodation. Annual publications provide more detailed structural information on the Australian economy, including areas such as innovation, and research and development.
Statistical developments in 2006–07
ENHANCED STATISTICAL OUTPUTS
1. First release of Business Longitudinal Database data
A discussion paper: The first iteration of the Business Longitudinal Database (cat. no. 8164.0) was released in May 2007. The ABS is undertaking extensive consultation with users of the Business Longitudinal Database (BLD), confirming that the core purpose of the BLD is to provide insight into the activities that most influence business performance, and to provide insight into the capacity (either financial or in terms of characteristics) of businesses to undertake these activities. These findings will influence future iterations of the BLD.
2. Improvements to Australia’s environment statistics system
Building on a number of ABS outputs in recent years, the third edition of Water Account, Australia 2004–05 (cat. no. 4610.0) was released on November 2006, which was six months ahead of schedule. It provided information on water use, which was used in the National Water Commission’s Australian Water Resources Assessment 2005. The quality of the water account estimates continues to improve as experience and survey capacity increase.
The first issue of Natural Resource Management on Australian Farms (cat. no. 4624.0) was released in July 2006, fourteen months after the decision to fund a biennial Natural Resource Management survey was announced. Final results from the Natural Resource Management Survey were released in October 2006, providing information at the federal, state and territory and regional level.
3. The 2005–06 Agricultural Census
The 2005–06 Agricultural Census was conducted successfully, based on an improved Australian Business Register framework. The preliminary estimates, released in May 2007, were of high quality. In addition, with the financial support of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Department of the Environment and Heritage (now known as the Department of Environment and Water Resources) and the National Water Commission, the Agricultural Census results have been coded to mesh blocks. The coding significantly improves the analytical value of the data, by supporting future release of results for flexible geographies.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Hon Sussan Ley MP; Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, the Hon Chris Pearce MP; and previous Deputy Australian Statistician, Jonathon Palmer, at the launch of the Agricultural Census
4. Release of Input–Output tables for 2001–02
In July 2006, preliminary input–output tables for 2001–02 were released. Work on these tables was fast-tracked in response to a request from the Productivity Commission. The motivation for the request from the Commission was to enable modelling work to inform Council of Australian Government deliberations on a number of priority matters within the economic reform agenda. There are a number of notable aspects of these input–output tables. Most importantly, they provide the first comprehensive picture of the structure of the Australian economy since the introduction of the new tax system. The inclusion of a specific table recording the flows of the goods and services tax is an important addition to the suite of information available to analysts.
5. Enhanced price measures and documentation
Two additions to the suite of sources and methods documentation to support users of price statistics were released in 2006–07, with Producer and International Trade Price Indexes: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6429.0) released in August 2006 and A Guide to the House Price Index (cat. no. 6464.0) released in November 2006.
To address the issue of the lack of coverage of price change for service industries in the economy, the ABS has developed a methodology and an experimental price index for retail trade margins. Information Paper: Experimental Price Index for Retail Trade Margins, Australia, 2003 to 2006 (cat. no. 6402.0), was published in February 2007. The ABS has developed strong relationships with the providers of the data, and high levels of support have been obtained from key clients interested in these statistics. In future, the ABS will integrate the retail trade margin price index with Producer Price Indexes and National Accounts, to enhance coverage for the services sector of the economy.
In April 2007, the ABS announced that it would commence publishing the Reserve Bank of Australia’s measures of inflation, as an analytical series in the Consumer Price Index, Australia (cat. no. 6401.0), commencing with the June quarter 2007 issue.
6. Improved responsiveness through an annual integrated collection strategy for industry statistics
To improve the responsiveness and coverage of the ABS industry statistics program, a rolling, integrated collection strategy has been developed and implemented. This strategy has resulted in the ability to introduce an Energy Supply Survey in respect of 2007–08, through targeted reductions to the Manufacturing, Mining and Utilities collections. An Annual Integrated Collection complementary program will provide outputs, traditionally collected via the survey program, through data substitution using taxation data, data amalgamation or statistical estimation. Such complementary estimates will replace directly collected estimates for items rated as a medium to low priority by users, such as four-digit industry details for manufacturing.
7. Improved counts of businesses
In February 2007, improved estimates of business counts were released in Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exit (cat. no. 8165.0). The scope, and thus the headline count of businesses, has been significantly reduced compared to former releases, with only businesses that are actively trading in goods or services included. The data is now more relevant to the needs of key users.
8. Venture Capital and Later Stage Private Equity Measurement
A venture capital survey has been conducted by the ABS for six years, and the outputs from these surveys have been well-received by users. However, a conceptual review of the survey was commenced in mid-2006 because recent increased interest in higher value later stage investments, which the framework used for the venture capital survey, did not sufficiently differentiate from the earlier and later stage investments. The findings of that review have been implemented in respect of the 2005–06 survey, including a change to the name of the survey and the collection of additional data items, ensuring that the published statistics remain fit for their purpose.
9. Revised tourism measures
The 2005–06 issue of the Australian National Accounts, Tourism Satellite Account (cat. no. 5249.0) was released in May 2007. It contains macroeconomic information on the tourism industry and particularly its share of industry value added and GDP for the Australian economy. Data are published back to 1997–98. As tourism is not an industry in the conventional sense (it is a classification by type of consumer rather than industry), an industry proxy has to be derived as a model based estimate. The current issue contains a review and re-benchmarking of the estimates to the balanced supply and use tables that underlie the national accounts industry estimates. As a result of this process a number of improvements to the data were introduced. This work receives user-funding from the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources.
10. Analytical measures of taxation revenue
The 2005–06 issue of Taxation Revenue, Australia (cat. no. 5506.0) contained a feature article providing enhanced analytical measures of taxation revenue.
The ABS regularly reviews the statistics it produces, to enhance the range or quality of the statistics, or to improve the standards, methods and ways in which the statistics are produced. In 2006–07 the Economic Statistics program undertook a number of projects to improve statistical standards. For example, revised standards for international trade statistics were introduced, and international statistical standards were enhanced. For more information on improved statistical standards see Chapter 15 Statistical standards and infrastructure.
Telstra was effectively privatised in November 2006. For statistical purposes, the ABS decided to treat Telstra as a private sector entity from the March quarter 2007. In February 2007, the ABS released Information Paper: Treatment of Telstra in ABS Statistics (cat. no. 8102.0), which outlined the treatment of Telstra in ABS statistics as a result of the privatisation.
The ABS has adopted a multidimensional view of the quality assessment of the National Accounts, with a focus on addressing the wider concept of quality or fitness for purpose. Core to this approach will be increasing the understanding of the National Accounts, allowing users to make better-informed judgments on quality. The strategy will also draw on international comparisons, to ensure the Australian National Accounts continue to meet international best practice.
The hours worked indexes previously published in the annual and quarterly National Accounts releases used a methodology that resulted in the aggregate level of hours worked being upwardly biased. However, the movements from quarter to quarter and year to year were basically correct. The Labour Force Survey data underlying these indexes are amenable to the adoption of a more sophisticated methodology to improve hours worked estimates for the economy as a whole and for the market sector. The ABS has used the results of this improved method to compile hours worked indexes and the various productivity indexes published in the 2006 release of the Australian System of National Accounts (cat. no. 5204.0).
Table 4.1: Economic Statistics Program