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

24.12    Relevance relates to the degree to which statistical information meets the real needs of users. It involves client liaison, program review, priority setting and assuring that the statistics produced together with the underlying concepts conform to international statistical standards.

Client liaison, priority review and program setting

24.13    The ABS regularly reviews all its statistical programs to ensure they remain relevant to user needs and to ensure capacity is available to provide information on new and emerging issues facing policy advisors and other data users. Each year relative priorities and competing resource requirements of all programs are formally and extensively considered by senior management, generally following consultation with users. The ABS maintains a three year forward work program which is rolled forward on an annual basis. Detailed work programs are developed, resources allocated, and performance indicators are established for each statistical program including the national accounts.

24.14    Ensuring ABS national accounts outputs support decision making is achieved by extensive consultation with users. This happens in a variety of formal and informal fora:

  • the Australian Statistics Advisory Council
  • the State Accounts User Group (SAUG)
  • the Input-Output User Group (IOUG)
  • the Productivity Measurement Reference Group
  • key client manager discussions
  • regular contact with the Commonwealth Treasury, State and Territory treasuries and the Reserve Bank of Australia, particularly through quarterly seminars and discussions
  • regular informal contact with other key users such as the Productivity Commission, particularly through their use of national accounts data
  • ad hoc meetings with academics and other experts.

24.15    While unmet demand for data is taken seriously, it does not mean that the ABS is currently in a position to move forward in all cases. The major area of unmet demand identified by users relates to the availability of state data. The ABS has greatly improved the coverage of state economic statistics in recent years with ongoing improvements to the state accounts and the addition of state multifactor productivity estimates. Users have indicated a requirement for state Input-Output tables and quarterly GSP. At this stage, the ABS has not been able to pursue their development on the grounds of cost and expected insufficient data quality.

24.16    The Economic Statistics User Group is the key forum for seeking user views on statistical issues, emerging data needs and priorities for the national accounts and other economic statistics. It meets regularly and the membership is drawn to provide a wide-ranging representation of the economic statistics user community.

Concepts, definitions and classifications

24.17    An important aspect of quality is that the concepts, definitions and classifications used in the body of statistics are relevant to, and understood by, users and that, in order to achieve this, national accounts statistics need to be placed in an appropriate conceptual framework.

24.18    The framework used in the ABS in the compilation of national accounts statistics is based on the 2008 SNA. The various editions of the System have been developed over many years and involved the input of international organisations, national statistics agencies, academic experts, and users of economic data. Moreover, it is designed as a set of accounts relevant to the analysis of economic issues. The System is reviewed and updated periodically in order to accommodate the changing structure of economies and contemporary economic issues.

24.19    This publication explains the conceptual framework and estimation methodology for Australia's national accounts statistics. It is published periodically to reflect changes in concepts, sources and methods. To keep users informed, these changes are also documented as they occur in the quarterly and annual publications, Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product and Australian System of National Accounts respectively.

24.20    Adaptations are made to the SNA framework to accommodate domestic perspectives, and to ensure that the ASNA is relevant to domestic users. These are generally done in such a way that the ASNA remains comparable to those of other countries.

24.21    The ABS places great emphasis on ensuring that its economic classifications align with the 2008 SNA and other international standards to ensure comparability across its own economic collections and outputs as well as with those of other statistical organisations. Standard classifications are an essential element for the compilation and presentation of statistics produced by national statistical offices. Their use ensures that statistics are comparable across industry and sector boundaries and can be aggregated from various collections. Within the conceptual framework, the ABS attempts to make the statistics as useful as possible by classifying the data in a number of ways to meet user requirements.

24.22    The 2008 SNA recognises that the core frameworks and classifications will not meet all possible needs for economic accounts data. It therefore recognised the need for 'satellite accounts', which can be used to focus on particular areas of the economy in more detail, or to allow different concepts or coverage, while retaining a link back to the core national accounts system. The ABS has developed a number of satellite accounts in response to user demand and these are outlined in Chapter 23.

24.23    For the national accounts statistics to remain as relevant as possible, resources are devoted to the research and development of new statistics. The outcomes of the research and development program are generally discussed with users, and published in Information Papers, prior to changes being implemented in the statistics.

24.24    The relevance of ABS national accounts statistics is also enhanced by the frequent inclusion of spotlight articles on topics of interest in the quarterly and annual national accounts releases. A full list of articles is included on the ABS website, and includes topics such as the impact of COVID-19; the impact of the drought; the relationship between GDP and employment; accounting for the environment in the national accounts; the underground economy and GDP; long-term trends in industry structure of the Australian economy; and income, saving and wealth.

Monitoring performance

24.25    Evidence that the processes described above are in place is provided by descriptions of the concepts, sources and methods as described in this publication. From the program perspective, evidence of periodic evaluation of the current relevance of each program can be provided and the impact of the results of these evaluations can be assessed.

24.26    Evidence of relevance is also provided by measures of usage, by client satisfaction results and by high profile examples of statistical information influencing or shedding light on important policy issues. Pointing out and publicising new analytical findings also demonstrates relevance.

24.27    The ABS maintains regular contact with key clients and other users of the national accounts to gauge their satisfaction with the services provided, including their views on the relevance of the data, and priorities for future development. Information gleaned from these formal and informal contacts become input into priority-setting processes, the outcomes of which are subject to high-level management review processes.