1001.0 - Australian Bureau of Statistics -- Annual Report, 2007-08  
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Contents >> Section IV - National Statistical System >> Chapter 6 - Economic Statistics


Within the context of the Portfolio Budget Statements, Output 1.1 (Australian Bureau of Statistics—national statistical service), the ABS produces and disseminates statistics in two key areas to meet the above outcome, namely:

  • Output 1.1.1 — Economic Statistics

  • Output 1.1.2 — Population and Social Statistics

    The ABS releases a broad range of economic statistics, which are used by governments, businesses and community groups to: formulate and assess economic policies (at both macro and micro levels); 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 attention is given to servicing these statistical needs. The ABS also plays an active role in the international comparability of economic statistics.

    In addition, the ABS releases a range of environment and energy statistics which directly assist in the management of the nation’s environmental and natural resources and can be used to inform climate change and water security issues. Regional dimensions of the data are of particular importance and the ABS is continuing to invest in methods aimed at improving regional environmental data.

    The ABS framework for economic statistics is based on the United Nations System of National Accounts 1993 (SNA). The SNA provides a comprehensive structure for compiling economic data in a coherent and consistent manner for the purposes of economic analysis, and in particular the compilation of national accounts. 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. Information on recent updates of the international framework used for economic statistics can be found below and in Chapter 14, Statistical standards and infrastructure.

    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 of economic commentary, analysis and policy development.

    A wide range of other statistics is also produced. These 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.

    For environment statistics, the ABS is engaged in ongoing international collaboration on the implementation of a framework to support environment and energy statistics, which is known as the System of Environmental-Economic Accounts (SEEA). The SEEA is aligned with the SNA and provides a coherent and consistent data system that allows for integrated environmental-economic analyses. For example, it provides links of natural resource use and emissions to economic growth and distribution of income and wealth (for more information on SEEA, see http://unstats.un.org/unsd/envaccounting/seea.asp).

    Image of Deputy Australian Statistician Peter Harper cutting cake

    The National Accounts Branch marked 5 September 2007 as the day Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) hit one trillion dollars. Deputy Australian Statistician Peter Harper cuts the cake to celebrate an estimated GDP value of $1,046,164,239,961.09.


    Australia faces critical challenges in water security, adapting to climate change and reducing emissions. The Australian Government has placed a high priority on managing these challenges for Australia. However, little is known about the connections between these environmental issues and socio-economic outcomes. Without this knowledge, it is not possible to measure change; or develop, implement and evaluate programs; or direct investment to where it is most needed.

    An urgent need to address the poor state of Australia’s environment information system was highlighted in: the 2006 State of the Environment report; the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council; the Natural Resource Management Standing Committee; the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 2007 Environmental Performance Review of Australia; and most recently by the Australia 2020 Summit.

    During 2007–08, the ABS has been developing a proposal to overcome identified deficiencies in environment statistics. The ABS proposal will:

  • provide the overarching leadership for a national environment statistics system

  • complement and expand the information coming from major initiatives, such as the National Water Initiative, Caring for our Country, the National Adaptation Agenda, and the Australian Emissions Trading Scheme, and

  • supplement existing or new information, by providing additional information on the interconnections between the environment and human activity, to inform and evaluate environmental, economic and social initiatives.

    Key policy agencies in the Australian Government, such as the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Department of Climate Change, and the Australian Government Treasury, and their state and territory government equivalents, require quality and trusted statistics, as well as scientific studies, to inform policies and public debate. Statutory reports, such as the State of the Environment report and Intergenerational Report, also require this information.

    Analysts and researchers will also benefit from the availability of information for analysis, modelling and research. Local government, regional bodies and communities will benefit from relevant, accurate information on the impacts of land and water management policies and decisions such as those relating to peri-urban and coastal issues. The business sector will be better informed in how they may be impacted by certain policy initiatives such as emissions trading and water.



    Regional outputs from the 2005–06 Agriculture Census were progressively released during 2007–08. A key feature of the 2005–06 Agriculture Census was the ability to provide estimates for a range of flexible, geographic regions. Agricultural commodity, water and land use estimates for 2005–06 are now available for Australia, each state and territory, Statistical Divisions, Statistical Local Areas, Natural Resource Management Regions and the Murray Darling Basin, as well as River Basins, Surface Water Management Areas, Murray-Darling Sustainable Yield Regions, Capital City Water Supply Areas, and Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia (IBRA) Regions.

    Users of ABS agriculture statistics are now able to obtain estimates for regions directly from the ABS website. Regional outputs from both the 2000–01 and 2005–06 Agricultural Census were released in e-magazine format and these have been well-received by the user community.

    The provision of estimates for a range of regions was made possible by funding from the National Water Commission’s Raising National Water Standards projects and natural resource management programs administered by the Departments of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.


    The Agricultural Census is the basic source of Australian agricultural commodity statistics.


    In August 2007, the ABS released the first issue of An Experimental Monetary Water Account for Australia (cat. no. 4610.0.55.005), which is a valuable information source for policy makers, researchers and the community. This release provides information on some of the physical flows of water, matched with monetary transactions for the 2004–05 year. Linking monetary and physical water accounts provides information useful for determining efficient water allocation, achieving cost recovery for water infrastructure assets and analysing trade-offs between alternative water and economic policies.


    The ABS has produced statistics to help the Australian Government Treasury model the impact of the proposed emissions trading system on the economy. The data covers each group of commodities used in the economy. The statistics trace industry use and production of products, as well as final consumption by governments and households. The data will help the Australian Government Treasury model the effect an emissions trading scheme will have on the production and use of products, such as coal, oil, electricity and transport fuels, and the effect this will have on business and consumer demand. This will help determine both the likely effectiveness of the scheme and the costs for businesses and households.


    The ABS developed a new measure of economic growth for Australia’s states and territories, which was first published in late 2007 in the Australian National Accounts: State Accounts (cat. no. 5220.0). This new measure sums up economic production by industry in each state and territory. Adding the new measure of state and territory economic growth to the existing measures has enabled the ABS to undertake more confrontation of data about state and territory economic activity and as such, has resulted in a significant improvement to the overall quality of the ABS suite of state and territory economic measures.


    In 2007–08, the ABS continued to make a significant contribution to the review of key international macroeconomic standards (System of National Accounts, Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual, 2008). The focus of the review has been on maintaining relevance in a changing economic environment and on ensuring the various economic standards are appropriately aligned. The United Nations Statistical Commission agreed on a proposed set of changes at its meeting in February 2007, with work on some chapters of the System of National Accounts to be completed by the end of 2008 and release of the updated manuals expected by mid 2009.


    The ABS is planning to implement the revised international macroeconomic standards, in conjunction with the implementation of Australia New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification 2006 (ANZSIC 2006), for the 2008–09 release of the annual national accounts in November 2009.

    The various quarterly releases (including the national accounts, balance of payments and financial accounts) will be released in accordance with the new standards beginning with the September quarter 2009 releases, and any changes required to the monthly international trade series will appear in the July 2009 release. The ABS has undertaken consultation with key users on its implementation plans for the revised standards. Discussions have been held with relevant Australian government agencies and the ABS convened Economic Statistics User Group, which includes representatives from state and territory governments, academia and private industry. This was followed by the release of Information Paper: Introduction of Revised International Standards in ABS Economic Statistics in 2009 (cat. no. 5310.0.55.001). The ABS plans to release further information on the statistical impacts of the changes in 2009, well before their introduction in the official statistics.

    The Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC) was released by
    the ABS on 31 March 2008. It will be used as the basis for the ABS’ research and development survey output.

    More information on the review of standards can be found in Chapter 14, Statistical standards and infrastructure.


    An expanded Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF) from the 2003 Innovation in Australian Business survey was released in the Remote Access Data Laboratory environment in August 2007. This was only the second business CURF released by the ABS and the first to include large businesses. Users of the CURF are able to tabulate, manipulate and analyse data to their individual specifications. A series of measures were used to ensure that no individual business could be identified.

    More information on CURFs can be found in Chapter 12, Communication of statistics.


    The Integrated Business Characteristics Strategy (IBCS) brings together a range of collections and outputs, including the Innovation and Business Use of Information Technology surveys and the business characteristics data required for the new business longitudinal database. The first Business Characteristics survey was run for 2005–06, with outputs released progressively between November 2007 and February 2008. Although this survey focused on business information technology use, it also included a range of new business characteristics items, and key measures of innovation, which were previously only available biennially. The first outputs from the innovation-focused 2006–07 survey were released in June 2008.


    Administrative changes to the way the Child Care Tax Rebate (CCTR) is paid were introduced by the Australian Government in 2007, effectively bringing the CCTR in-scope of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Prior to these changes, the CCTR was a tax offset for taxpayers, which was paid through the tax system for families only. It was out-of-scope of the CPI as income tax offsets are excluded from the CPI. The recent government changes are to the method of payment of the CCTR, which is no longer linked to a family tax liability and is no longer paid through the tax system. The administration of this payment has been moved from the Australian Taxation Office to the Family Assistance Office. The benefit is now available to both taxpayers and non-taxpayers alike. Therefore, from the September 2007 quarter onwards, the CCTR is now in scope of the CPI and is included as a rebate. An article titled Treatment of Child Care Services in the Australian Consumer Price Index (CPI) was included in the September quarter issue of the CPI (cat. no. 6401.0).

    During 2007–08, the ABS contributed to a number of policy areas, including providing economics related information to the following:

  • Senate Committee on Community Affairs’ inquiry into the cost of living pressures on older Australians

  • Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s grocery pricing inquiry

  • Australian Fair Pay Commission’s review of compensation for minimum wage/low paid employees, and

  • Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs’ review of pensioner indexation.

    Reviews of Producer Price Indexes have been underway during 2007–08 to ensure these indexes continue to reflect current economic conditions. A review of the price indexes for the output of the general construction industry was successfully implemented in the December quarter 2007. The ABS has also undertaken a review of the International Trade Price Indexes, to incorporate the revisions to international trade classifications such as the Standard International Trade Classification and the Harmonized System. The updated indexes will be published in the September 2008 reference period.

    Further reviews of the Producer Price Indexes are expected to result in updated indexes in respect of a revised classification of industry, the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification 2006 (ANZSIC 2006).

    During 2007–08, the Labour Price Index area has ensured that data released from late 2009 will use the revised industry classification. Using ANZSIC 2006, some key indexes will be backcast to 1997.

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