Government Finance Statistics, Australia

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Statistics about finances of the general government and public non-financial corporations sectors for the various levels of government in Australia

Reference period
December 2020

Key statistics

In the December quarter 2020:

  • total taxation revenue increased 16.0% to $147.5 billion
  • general government net operating balance was a deficit of -$39.7 billion
  • GFS net lending(+)/borrowing(-) position was -$51.5 billion

Main Features

Unless indicated, all figures presented in this publication are current prices, original series.

Table 1 - Quarterly key figures
  Mar Qtr 2020Jun Qtr 2020Sep Qtr 2020Dec Qtr 2020Sep Qtr 2020 to Dec Qtr 2020
  $m$m$m$m% change
Public sector measures, seasonally adjusted, chain volume (a) (b)
 General government final consumption expenditure (c)99 407102 267103 792104 6180.8%
 General government gross fixed capital formation19 66019 98519 53020 2143.5%
 Total public gross fixed capital formation25 72525 61925 57026 2192.5%
Key fiscal aggregates, all levels of general government, original
 Taxation Revenue137 859141 114127 238147 54816.0%
 Net Operating Balance-7 982-84 478-93 596-39 731np
 Net Lending (+)/borrowing (-)-15 726-100 163-100 876-51 548np

np not available for publication but included in totals where applicable, unless otherwise indicated
(a) Public sector aggregates for the December quarter 2020 will be included in the Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product
(b) Reference year for chain volume measures is 2018-19.
(c) See Explanatory Notes for the relationship between general government final consumption expenditure and GFS aggregates.

  1. using the GDP series as published in the Sep 2020 release of Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product


One article is included in this release:

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

COVID-19 impacted a range of Government Finance Statistics series in the December quarter 2020. Key policies and conceptual determinations are discussed in the article Economic measurement during COVID-19: Selected issues in the Economic Accounts. Further ABS data measuring the impact of COVID-19 can be found via

Commonwealth subsidy expenses for September quarter 2020 have been revised due to updated timing calculations used by the ABS. Timing differences in recording of these subsidies will result in a divergence between the Commonwealth Government financial reporting and ABS published macroeconomic statistics.

Accounting Standard Changes

The following Australian Accounting Standards Board (AASB) standard changes have been introduced in government financial reporting for periods from 1 July 2019 onwards, leading to increased divergence in certain circumstances between economic statistics publications and government financial reporting:

  • Leases (AASB 16): The standard removes the distinction between operating and finance leases on the lessee side of financial reporting. The conceptual distinction between operating and finance leases still remains in economic statistics. GFS outputs are consistent with the historical treatment. 
  • Revenue recognition (AASB 15 & 1058): The standard requires revenue to be recognised when performance obligations are met in certain circumstances. In GFS the change primarily affects grant revenue received by state and territory governments from the Commonwealth. Recognition of grant revenue in GFS remains consistent with the historical treatment which is based on when jurisdictions have access to the funding as reported by the Commonwealth.
  • Service Concession Arrangements (AASB 1059): The standard impacts ownership of non-financial assets. It applies a control concept to determine non-financial asset ownership. Non-financial asset ownership in GFS is determined based off a risk-reward concept consistent with the historical treatment which has been maintained in economic statistics. 

Transactions related to visa application charges

In December 2015, the Commonwealth government released the 2015-16 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) which included a reclassification of visa application charges (VAC). In MYEFO these charges are now treated as taxation revenue rather than sales of goods and services. This reclassification has been applied to the Government Finance Statistics (GFS), with no impact on total GFS revenue or the GFS net operating balance. The National Accounts statistics will maintain coherence with previously published data and classify this transaction as sales of goods and services. These treatments will remain in place until a review of the treatment of VAC across macroeconomic statistics has been completed.

Key Tables

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Unless otherwise specified, percentage changes shown below are through the year (TTY). For this publication the base quarter is December quarter 2019.

Net operating balance rebounded from September quarter

Total general government net operating balance was -$39.7 billion, an increase of $53.9 billion from the September quarter estimate of -$93.6 billion.

The Commonwealth government was the major contributor to the rise, increasing $61.7 billion from the September quarter estimate of -$88.7 billion. The rise reflects a decrease in JobKeeper and Boosting Cash Flow for Employers payments, combined with a $18.7 billion increase in taxation revenue.

From December quarter 2019, total general government net operating balance fell $41.1 billion, with the Commonwealth government net operating balance decreasing $32.1 billion.

  1. Commonwealth and State & Local Net Operating Balance are not additive to All Australia Net Operating Balance due to consolidation and the inclusion of public universities

Total State and local general government net operating balance fell from September quarter

Total state and local general government net operating balance was -$9.9 billion, a decrease of $3.6 billion from the September quarter estimate of -$6.3 billion. The majority of state and local governments recorded a fall in net operating balance compared to the September quarter. 

Western Australia was the only state to record a positive net operating balance due to continued strength in revenues from royalties and stamp duties on conveyances.

Total State and local general government net operating balance fell $8.5 billion from December quarter 2019. Victoria recorded the largest decrease, reflecting a continuation of COVID-19 related subsidies and health services. 

Expenses fell in December 2020, but remained at elevated levels due to ongoing COVID-19 support

Total expenses fell 13.6% from September quarter to $218.8 billion driven by a reduction in the Commonwealth subsidy programs of JobKeeper and Boosting Cash Flow for Employers. Expenses through the year have increased 24.0% reflecting a continuation of COVID-19 economic support programs.

Total revenue increased 12.1% from September quarter to $179.0 billion, and was 0.7% higher than December quarter 2019. The increases have been driven by higher taxation revenue.

Taxation revenue continued recovery

Taxation revenue grew 1.3%, following the fall of 1.1% recorded in September quarter 2020.

Commonwealth taxation revenue returned to pre-pandemic levels

Total Commonwealth government taxation revenue grew 2.2% (up $2,605 million). Recoveries in financial markets and stronger domestic economic activity drove increases in income and capital gains taxes levied on enterprises. This strength is driven by income tax paid by superannuation funds (up 70.7% or $2,131 million) and company income tax (down 0.1% or $35 million) improving on a weak September quarter (down 3.8% or $830 million).

Strength in Commonwealth taxation revenue was offset by weaker personal income tax (down 0.6% or $324 million) as a result of the introduction of lower tax rates in the December quarter.

State and local government taxation revenue fell

Total state and local government taxation revenue fell 2.7% (down $769 million). This reflects a continuation of payroll tax relief policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was offset by strength in stamp duties on conveyances due to increases in the volume of transfers and rising property prices.

Gambling tax continued its recovery in the December quarter, rising 26.6% (up $372 million) from September quarter driven by the reopening of venues and the resumption of professional sports in all states.

Public investment in new assets lifted driven by general government sector

Total public investment in new assets(a) rose through the year, rebounding after a period of subdued growth in recent quarters. General government grew by 3.8% ($693 million), with Victoria and Queensland continuing to show consecutive quarters of growth, while New South Wales was relatively flat. Public Corporations remained flat at 0.0% (-$2 million) with strength in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia being offset by a fall in Commonwealth.

  1. Includes acquisitions of new non-financial fixed produced assets. Second hand asset acquisitions and sales between sectors are excluded from this measure.

Net worth fell due to ongoing COVID-19 support

Total general government net worth was $5.5 billion, a fall of $11.7 billion from the September quarter estimate, as the increase in liabilities was greater than the increase in assets. The large incurrence of liabilities is due to significant amounts of debt securities issued by both Commonwealth and state governments to fund expenditure to support the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. General government net worth decreased $261.5 billion from December quarter 2019.

Net financial worth was -$955.1 billion, a fall of $21.8 billion from the September quarter and decreasing $313.0 billion from the December quarter 2019.

University operating expenses stabilised while capital investment continued to weaken

International travel restrictions on arrivals to Australia were introduced in March 2020 in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.  As a result, international student numbers and associated fee revenue for universities declined strongly. A range of cost cutting measures were introduced by universities in response, including postponement of capital works, restructuring of course offerings and a reduction in overall staffing levels.

In December quarter 2020, revenue remained down through the year compared to pre-pandemic levels. Operating expenses remained flat, however showed a slight recovery from previous quarters due to a large number of redundancy payments being made. Capital expenditure showed another strong decline this quarter, as universities continued to postpone, cancel or reduce the scope of many infrastructure projects.

Data downloads

Table 1 - Government Finance Statistics, Australia

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 5519.0.55.001.

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