5269.0.55.001 - Information Paper: A Future Australian Transport Satellite Account: ABS Views, 2011  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/10/2011  First Issue
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3.1 Over the past two years, consultation by the ABS with the transport industry, Treasuries and other key decision makers has increased awareness of the potential uses of a TrSA. There is now a much greater recognition as to the benefits a TrSA would bring in terms of understanding the supply and use of transportation by industries, the latter represented either in absolute dollar values or as a requirement per dollar of industry output. This would allow policy makers to better understand the direct and indirect effects of policy changes on the supply and use of transport activity throughout the economy.

3.2 At present, a key gap that exists with transport statistics is a set of detailed, up-to-date economic measures of transport activity undertaken by all industries within the Australian economy. While ASNA input-output statistics show some level of secondary transport activity (i.e. paid for by a third-party) in the economy (albeit based around historical data relativities), this data does not separately identify the own-account transport activity of businesses operating in industries such as Agriculture, Construction and Mining. Further, while the input-output tables can tell us some of the key products used by the transport industry such as fuel, it does not tell us how much of these products were used only in transport activity as distinct from fuel use for machinery and other purposes.

3.3 Transport statistics can be classified in many ways depending on how they are to be used. For example they may be classified according to the type of transport service provided – freight and pipeline for goods, passenger for people, and other services needed to support the transport system’s infrastructure. They may be organised according to the type of transport vehicle used, such as trains, buses, boats and pipelines, or they may be organised into groups of establishments with similar input structures (industries).

3.4 It is useful to consider the case study of the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) and how its data has assisted policy makers with decision making. Box 2 below outlines how the TSA has been used over the past decade or so since the initial release in 2000.

Box 2 Case study - Uses of the Australian Tourism Satellite Account (ATSA)

The ATSA is highly regarded by users and it fills an important gap that cannot be satisfied from ANZSIC based industry statistics. It is widely regarded as essential information for the analysis of an important sector of the Australian and State economies and a large research effort has now developed utilising the TSA.

The TSA is also an important source of information to support measurement of the success of the Commonwealth Government's National Long Term Tourism Strategy.
The main uses of the TSA are therefore:
  • advocacy based on tourism's footprint on the economy;
  • analysis of tourism impacts on national and State/regional economies, including Computable General Equilibrium modelling and cost/benefit analysis;
  • as a benchmark and framework for economic forecasting models of tourism;
  • as a conceptual and methodological framework and benchmark for researchers developing State TSAs; and
  • briefing the Minister for parliamentary debate, speeches etc.

3.5 Based on the practical use made of existing satellite accounts and international experiences with TrSAs, some of the key benefits of a TrSA include:
  • Proving the underlying dataset to enable more detailed and reliable modelling of transport activity e.g. using Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) models. Direct impacts can be assessed using traditional cost-benefit analysis to assess financial cost impact on transport costs (vehicle operating costs, lower productivity due to congestion, externalities). These direct impacts could be introduced into the CGE model as exogenous shocks to derive broader impacts on other industries, final demand and the economy as a whole. The consistent treatment of the production of transport services, whether produced as a market output (for-hire) or output for own use (own-account), would improve the ability to study these exogenous factors and derive more accurate flow-on effects of transport policy.
  • A TrSA would redefine ancillary transport production, i.e. own-account transport, as output of transport services and thus enable decision makers to more clearly analyse transport on a comprehensive economic activity basis. In the longer term, even households' production of transport services for their own use could be included as output of transport services in a TrSA. This provides a complete analytical model for understanding the contribution and effects of the broader transport industry on the whole economy. For example, with the establishment of a TrSA, the analysis of transport related impacts such as a hypothetical congestion charge could include all industries using transport services in the TrSA while the core National Accounts will only include those industries that are purchasing transport services.
  • As an extension of the core National Accounts, a TrSA would be based on the framework, concepts and definitions of the ASNA, which would allow for the production of a credible and comprehensive measure of the contribution of transport in the national economy. Estimating the contribution of total transport activity in the economy, including transport services provided on own-account by businesses, would provide information on the contribution of transport activity to GDP, and also on which industries are the largest producers and users of transport activity. Estimates of the contribution of transport activity would not be affected when businesses switch from own-account to for-hire services or vice versa.
  • A TrSA also presents an excellent opportunity to draw together transport monetary and volume data (such as employment, freight movement data, type of vehicles and energy use) into a single accounting framework. A TrSA would build on existing international statistical work, making use of the existing statistical systems and classifications to provide a clear system for producing, presenting and analysing transport data. Such a system is needed because at present the integration of transport, economic and environmental information necessary for informed policy development and Government decision making is lacking.
  • There is the potential to produce transport asset accounts in the future, e.g., to include investment in capital, depreciation, and the value of non-produced assets such as land on which the infrastructure sits to inform analysis/policy e.g. congestion.
  • The use of monetary values makes it possible to add together the values of different services and derive a single measure of the value of the entire transport activity in the system. This data can then be used by itself or combined with other data to analyse changes in transport services themselves (as products) and their relationships to other industries. For example, which industries are the biggest users of transport services and which industries might be affected by particular transport policies or decisions.
  • A TrSA would provide interested economic researchers/academics with the methodology, framework and national estimates to utilise as a starting point to derive TrSAs at the State/Territory level. For example, a TrSA would provide national benchmarks for inter-industry transactions involving own-account transport services for sub-national input-output tables. These would underlie CGE models used to estimate transport related economic impacts at the regional level.

3.6 In summary, the development of a TrSA would provide data critical to supporting evidence based decision making. A TrSA has the potential to assist in answering key policy questions such as:
  • the economic impact of transport policies (e.g. road user pricing, congestion charges, fuel surcharges) on all industries, final consumers and the economy as a whole; and
  • better understanding of broader transport activity in the economy including employment, productivity, energy consumption and the environment.

3.7 For all these policy issues, it is also important to assess the direct and indirect impacts of different policy options, and to evaluate and refine any implemented policy measures over time. In the context of transport policy development, it is essential that economic data on transport related activity is up-to-date and comprehensively represented within existing statistical frameworks to ensure it is meaningful and relates to established measures of economic growth and environmental impacts. Consequently, while an initial TrSA would bring many of the benefits outlined above, regular updates would be required to evaluate and refine policy impacts on transport activity across the whole of the economy over time. However, the ABS is not planning to do Transport surveys as part of the Economic Activity Survey on an annual basis so updates in intervening years would require estimation based on partial data indicators.