Government Finance Statistics, Australia methodology

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Reference period
June 2021

Explanatory Notes

This publication contains quarterly estimates of 'Government Finance Statistics' (GFS). These statistics measure the financial activities of government and reflect the impact of those activities on other sectors of the economy. The Australian system of Government Finance Statistics (AGFS15), which is used to derive the statistics presented here, is designed to provide statistical information on public sector entities in Australia classified in a uniform and systematic way. GFS enables policy makers and users to analyse the financial operations and financial position of the public sector by the level of government, institutional sector or set of transactions.

The main functions of government are the provision of non-market services, the regulation of economic and social conditions, and the redistribution of income between sections of the community. These activities are primarily financed by taxation and are carried out by entities in the general government sector. In addition to this core activity, governments can also own or control enterprises that sell goods or services to the public and which operate largely on a market basis (public non-financial corporations) or engage in financial intermediation (public financial corporations).


The system of GFS provides details of revenues, expenses, cash flows and assets and liabilities of the Australian public sector and comprises units which are owned and/or controlled by the Commonwealth, state and local governments. This quarterly GFS release presents statistics on revenues, expenses and net acquisition of non-financial assets for the general government sector and public non-financial corporations sector. Quarterly balance sheet outputs for the Commonwealth general government and total state general government sectors are also included as part of AGFS15 implementation.

The system of GFS is based on international standards set out in the System of National Accounts, 2008 (2008 SNA) and the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Government Finance Statistics Manual (GFSM).

The IMF published a revised Government Finance Statistics Manual (GFSM 2014) and the ABS GFS Manual was updated to reflect the new international standards. These changes are presented and have been implemented for data reported for periods from 1 July 2017 onwards. Detailed of these changes as well as information on the concepts, sources and methods used in compiling GFS can be found in the Australian System of Government Finance Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2015 (AGFS15).

Concepts, sources and methods


The main GFS classification is the Economic Type Framework.  The Economic Type Framework describes stocks and flows and resembles a set of financial statements, with sections for an operating statement, a cash flow statement and a balance sheet. In addition, there are sections to cater for the reconciliation of accounting net operating result measures with cash flows from operating activities and to capture items like assets acquired under finance leases, intra-unit transfers, and revaluations and other changes in the volume of assets.

Data sources

The statistics shown in this release are based on information provided in, or underlying, the published accounting statements and reports of governments and their authorities. The valuation of stocks and flows in source data are generally valued in accordance with requirements specified in accounting standards, which generally do not require universal or continual application of market values. However, for the most part, the divergences between the accounting values and market values are not materially significant. Exceptions occur for some interest flows and depreciation.

For the general government sector for the Commonwealth Government and all state governments, the primary quarterly data sources are public accounts and budget management systems of state treasuries and the Commonwealth Department of Finance. For the public non-financial corporation sector, GFS are collected from a survey of the largest corporations in several jurisdictions where the relevant treasury does not provide that data as part of its accounting reporting.

For local government, the main data source is a quarterly GFS survey of local governments from all jurisdictions.


To compile statistics about the financial activities of a particular level of government, or any other grouping of public sector units, transactions and debtor/creditor relationships between units within the chosen grouping (sector or subsector) have to be matched and eliminated to avoid double counting. The process of matching and eliminating these items within the chosen group is known as 'consolidation'.

Consolidation is particularly important at the state government level where a significant proportion of total expenses/payments are financed by Commonwealth Government grants. Similarly, an appreciable part of the expenditure undertaken by state public non-financial corporations is financed by subsidies from state governments.

Interstate comparisons

The statistics in this publication have been compiled using standard definitions, classifications and treatment of government financial transactions to facilitate comparisons between levels of government and between states within a level of government.

However, the statistics also reflect real differences between the administrative and accounting arrangements of the various governments and these differences need to be taken into account when making interstate comparisons. For example, only the state level of government exists in the ACT and certain functions it performs are undertaken by local government authorities in other jurisdictions.

Accounting standards

From 2008-09 onwards, Australian Accounting Standard Board 1049 Whole of Government and General Government Sector Financial Reporting (AASB 1049) replaced Australian Accounting Standard 31 Financial Reporting by Government (AAS 31) as the standard Governments should follow in the preparation of their annual financial statements. Information on AASB 1049 is available from the Australian Accounting Standards Board website <>

A key feature of AASB 1049 is the requirement that where the GFS standards differ from the accounting standards, a qualitative explanation of the differences must be presented. A functional statement of expenses should also be reported. AASB 1049 covers General Government and Whole of Government, but does not apply to individual government agencies. Whole of Government for each jurisdiction is referred to as Total public sector in GFS.

Data presented in this publication may differ from data published by Treasuries if:

  • Treasuries have not adjusted their data to a GFS basis;
  • ABS has a different view on classification treatments applied by jurisdictions;
  • ABS employs a different consolidation methodology to those used by jurisdictions;
  • ABS applies reconciliation adjustments when it consolidates data for all jurisdictions and compares annual data with quarterly data used in compiling the national accounts; and
  • ABS includes data which were not available when a jurisdiction's GFS presentations were published (e.g. major asset sales).

Australian System of National Accounts (ASNA)

While GFS and ASNA share the same conceptual framework (SNA), there are methodological differences between GFS and ASNA analytical measures (for example net worth and net lending/borrowing). Descriptions of GFS/ASNA reconciliations are outlined in Section 6 of the ABS publication Information Paper: Accruals-based Government Finance Statistics (cat. no. 5517.0). Not all public sector ASNA measures are wholly extracted from GFS.


Revisions are made to the quarterly GFS data each quarter as required as a result of new and updated information available from jurisdictions.

Quality Declaration

Institutional Environment









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