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National Accounts in Australia

Australian System of National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods
Reference period
2020-21 financial year

1.20    Australia pioneered work on national wealth in 1890 when Coghlan (the New South Wales Government Statistician) prepared rudimentary balance sheets for New South Wales. However, it was not until almost sixty years later, at the Conference on Research in Income and Wealth in 1948, that national balance sheets again received serious international attention.

1.21    The first official estimates of national income for Australia (based on estimates prepared by Clark and Crawford) were published in 1938 in The Australian Balance of Payments, 1928-29 to 1937-38, although unofficial estimates by several economists had been published in the 1920s and 1930s.⁷ In 1945, the first official set of National Accounts was prepared by the then Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics (CBCS) and published in the Commonwealth Budget Paper Estimates of National Income and Public Authority Income and Expenditure.

1.22    The 1960s and early 1970s were times of significant development for Australian national accounting. The first official quarterly estimates of national income and expenditure were published in December 1960.⁸ In 1963 the CBCS published the first Australian National Accounts: National Income and Expenditure (ANA) bulletin, which included the first annual constant price estimates for Australia.⁹ Experimental I-O estimates were published in 1964.¹⁰ The CBCS began to seasonally adjust its quarterly estimates of national income and expenditure in 1967. Estimates of gross product by industry at constant prices were published for the first time in 1969.¹¹ In 1971, the CBCS first published seasonally adjusted, constant price quarterly estimates of national income and expenditure, which later proved to be among the most used of all national accounting estimates. The CBCS published estimates of national income and expenditure based on the revised SNA (1968 version) in 1973, and also published the first official I-O statistics in the same year.¹²

1.23    In the 1980s, the former CBCS, now called the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), again made significant progress in national accounting. The first full edition of Australian National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods was published in 1981 at about the same time as the first experimental estimates of capital stock.¹³ The ABS conducted a study into the accuracy and reliability of the quarterly estimates of national income and expenditure and published the results in 1982.¹⁴ Experimental State accounts¹⁵ were published in 1984, followed by the first official estimates in 1987.¹⁶ They are now published annually in Australian National Accounts: State Accounts. In 1985, the ABS published an assessment of the effects of rebasing constant price estimates from a 1979-80 base to a 1984-85 base.¹⁷ In 1986, the second set of experimental estimates of capital stock was published¹⁸ followed in 1987 by the first official estimates of capital stock.¹⁹ The first quarterly estimates of constant price gross product by industry were released in 1988.²⁰ These estimates were subsequently incorporated into the quarterly publication, Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product.

1.24    Further significant developments in national accounting and associated statistics occurred during the 1990s. In 1990, the first estimates of multifactor productivity were published.²¹ In 1990, the ABS also published developmental flow of funds accounts, showing the changes in financial assets and liabilities arising from the financing of productive activity in the economy.²² Flow of funds estimates are now published on a quarterly basis, along with estimates of stocks of financial assets and liabilities at the end of each quarter. An Information Paper describing the impact of rebasing constant price estimates from a 1984-85 base to a 1989-90 base was published in 1993.²³ Experimental estimates of national balance sheets for Australia were first released in 1995, followed by the publication of regular annual national and sector balance sheet estimates in 1997.²⁴ Australian National Accounts: Supply Use Tables commencing 1994-95 were first introduced (but not published) into the annual National Accounts in 1998, in conjunction with the implementation of 1993 SNA, as an integral part of the annual compilation of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). They ensure GDP is balanced for all three approaches (production, expenditure and income) and provide the annual benchmarks from which the quarterly estimates are compiled.

1.25    The 1993 SNA was formally introduced into the National Accounts in the September quarter 1998 issue of Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, which was released in December 1998. Prior information on the nature and impact of implementation of the revised standards and methods was provided in a series of discussion and information papers as follows:

1.26    Preliminary data on a 1993 SNA basis were made available in re-releases of the following publications:

1.27    The first annual national accounts publication on a 1993 SNA basis was Australian System of National Accounts, 1997-98, released in April 1999. This publication provided comprehensive national and sectoral accounts, including balance sheets, as well as estimates of capital stock and multifactor productivity. A significantly updated edition of Australian National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods was published in 2000. It outlined the implementation of the 1993 SNA in the national accounts statistics of Australia.

1.28    There were major changes to the Australian tax system from 1 July 2000 with the introduction of The New Tax System (TNTS). A major feature of the new arrangements was the introduction of a goods and services tax (GST), which affected the prices of a broad range of goods and services in the economy. The GST replaced wholesale sales taxes (WST) and a number of other taxes on production and imports, although not all of these taxes were abolished from 1 July 2000. The introduction of the GST was accompanied by reductions in personal income tax rates and increases in social security payments. There were also changes to company tax arrangements. The information paper, ABS Statistics and The New Tax System, and the feature article in the March quarter 2000 issue of Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, provide more detail on the impact of this change. The TNTS was introduced into the National Accounts in the September quarter 2000 issue of Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product and 2000-01 issue of the Australian System of National Accounts.

1.29    The first Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account, 1997-98 was published in 2000 on a pre-GST basis and post-GST from 2002 annually. There have been other satellite accounts published occasionally, namely the Australian National Accounts: Non-Profit Institutions Satellite Account in 2002 and 2009, and the Australian National Accounts: Information and Communication Technology Satellite Account in 2006.

1.30    A significant development in state accounts occurred in 2007 with the estimation of Gross State Product using the production approach (GSP(P)). Consequently, the headline measure of GSP was the average of the existing GSP estimated using the income/expenditure approach and GSP(P). The first estimates were released in Australian National Accounts State Accounts in 2006-07. The information paper, Gross State Product using the Production Approach GSP(P) outlined the methods and sources for estimating GSP(P).

1.31    In February 2012, the System of Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA) was elevated as an international statistical standard. Additional parts to the SEEA, namely applications and ecosystems, are still in development. This development process occurred over many years and the ABS was, and will continue to be, at the forefront of the international efforts. Crucially, the SEEA is fully integrated with SNA concepts and therefore provides harmonised information across the environment and economic domains. Where necessary, environmental accounting can extend the asset and production boundaries of the SNA framework to better encapsulate the environment and its resources. The ABS releases a range of annual accounts including Water Account, Australia and Energy Account, Australia and Waste Account, Australia, Experimental Estimates. Land accounts for selected States and regions of Australia are also available, and progress has been made developing environmental expenditure accounts (see discussion paper).

1.32    The 2008 SNA was formally introduced into the National Accounts in the September quarter 2009 issue of Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product and the annual release of Australian System of National Accounts, 2008-09, which were released in December 2009. Prior information on the nature and impact of implementation of the revised standards and methods was provided in the following information papers:

1.33    The standards set out in the 2008 SNA (as well as 1993 SNA) are designed to be applied with a degree of flexibility, and Australia's implementation of the standards reflect local conditions and requirements. Furthermore, decisions are made in isolated instances to depart from the standards because of strong user preference for an alternative view and such departures are noted at appropriate points throughout this manual. The departures are relatively minor and, consequently, they do not affect the comparability of National Accounts information reported by the ABS to international organisations such as the UN and the OECD to a significant extent. A list of the main departures from 2008 SNA is provided in Appendix 2.

Endnotes

  1. Clark, C. & J.G. Crawford (1938) The National Income of Australia. Sydney: Angus and Robertson; CBCS (1938) The Australian Balance of Payments, 1928-29 to 1937-38. Canberra:  Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics (CBCS); the earlier unofficial estimates are discussed in Chapter 2 of N.G. Butlin (1962) Australian Domestic Product, Investment and Foreign Borrowing, 1861 to 1938-39. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.
  2. CBCS (1960) Quarterly Estimates of National Income and Expenditure. Canberra:  Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics (CBCS).
  3. CBCS (1963) Australian National Accounts: National Income and Expenditure, 1948-49 to 1961-62. Canberra:  Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics (CBCS).
  4. CBCS (1964) Australian Input-Output Tables, 1958-59. Canberra:  Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics (CBCS).
  5. CBCS (1969) Estimates of Gross Product by Industry at Current and Constant Prices, 1959-60 to 1965-66. Canberra:  Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics (CBCS).
  6. CBCS (1973) Australian National Accounts: Input-Output Tables, 1962-63. Canberra:  Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics (CBCS).
  7. Bailey, Cherylee (1981) Studies in National Accounting: Current-cost and Constant-cost Depreciation and Net Capital Stock. Canberra:  Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
  8. Johnson A.G. (1982) The Accuracy and Reliability of the Quarterly Australian National Accounts. Canberra:  Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
  9. Burrell S., Daniel J., Johnson A. and R. Walters (1984) State Accounts, Australia: Issues and Experimental Estimates. Canberra:  Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
  10. ABS (1987) Australian National Accounts: State Accounts, 1985-86. Canberra:  Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
  11. Dippelsman, R.J. (1985) The Effects of Rebasing the Constant Price Estimates of the Australian National Accounts. Canberra:  Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
  12. Walters, R. and R. Dippelsman (1986) Estimates of Depreciation and Capital Stock, Australia. Occasional Paper 1985/3. Canberra:  Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
  13. ABS (1987) Australian National Accounts: Estimates of Capital Stock, 1985-86. Canberra:  Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
  14. ABS (1988) Australian National Accounts: Gross Product, Employment and Hours Worked, June Quarter, 1988. Canberra:  Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
  15. ABS (1990) Occasional Paper: Estimates of Multifactor Productivity, Australia. Canberra:  Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
  16. ABS (1990) Information Paper: Australian National Accounts: Flow of Funds Developmental Estimates. Canberra:  Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
  17. ABS (1993) Information Paper: Australian National Accounts: Introduction of Constant Price Estimates at Average 1989-90 Prices. Canberra:  Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
  18. ABS (1993) Occasional Paper: National Balance Sheets for Australia: Issues and Experimental Estimates, 1989 to 1992. Canberra:  Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).