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
March 2021

Key statistics

In the March quarter 2021:

  • total taxation revenue decreased -2.6% to $144.9b
  • general government net operating balance rose $17.5b from -$38.5b in December quarter 2020 to -$20.9b
  • general government borrowing was $31.2 billion

Main Features

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

One article is included in this release:

Table 1 - Quarterly key figures
 Jun Qtr 2020Sep Qtr 2020Dec Qtr 2020Mar Qtr 2021Dec Qtr 2020 to Mar Qtr 2021
 $m$m$m$m% change
Public sector measures, seasonally adjusted, chain volume (a) (b)
 General government final consumption expenditure (c)102,210103,792104,697104,151-0.5%
 General government gross fixed capital formation19,96619,57820,30321,2344.6%
 Total public gross fixed capital formation25,59625,61626,19026,9472.9%
Key fiscal aggregates, all levels of general government, original
 Taxation Revenue141,159127,279148,793144,916-2.6%
 Net Operating Balance-84,478-93,691-38,450-20,926np
 Net Lending (+)/borrowing (-)-100,176-100,990-50,233-31,248np

np not available for publication but included in totals where applicable, unless otherwise indicated
(a) Public sector aggregates for the March quarter 2021 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 Dec 2020 release of Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

COVID-19 impacted a range of Government Finance Statistics series in the March quarter 2021. 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

The roll out of COVID-19 vaccines commenced in February 2021 but did not materially affect government final consumption expenditure this quarter.

Commonwealth subsidy expenses for December 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.

Net operating balance recovery continues but remains lower than pre-pandemic levels

All levels of government (herein referred to as total) net operating balance continued to recover this quarter, increasing $17.5 billion from December quarter 2020 to -$20.9 billion. Through the year, it is $13.1 billion lower than March quarter 2020.

  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 Expenses fell since December quarter 2020

Total expenses fell 9.6% from December quarter 2020 to $197.7 billion, however are 11.5% higher than March quarter 2020.

Following three quarters of unprecedented government spending in response to the COVID-19 pandemic emergency, total expenses declined sharply in March quarter 2021. Governments reduced the levels of support provided to businesses and households as business and economic conditions generally improved across Australia.

Reductions in both the number of recipients and payment rates of JobKeeper drove the decline in total expenses over the quarter. Direct payments to households also declined in March quarter 2021 with further reductions in both the Coronavirus supplement and Economic Support Payments.

While expenses decreased from December quarter 2020, they remained at historically elevated levels. Total subsidy expenses, current monetary transfers to households and social benefits to households in goods and services all increased through the year, as governments across Australia provided both direct and indirect supports to businesses and households.

Total Revenue increases through the year

Total revenue increased 4.3% to $176.7 billion. The increase is a stronger than expected recovery from the impacts of COVID-19 through increased company tax and elevated commodity prices contributing to higher royalty revenue. Offsetting this increase, sales of goods and services revenue decreased 3.8% to $16.6 billion due to lower university student enrolments and a reduced number of tertiary courses.

Total revenue decreased 1.9% from December quarter 2020, driven by reductions in taxes on income; dividends; and fines, penalties, and forfeits.

State and Local net operating balance improved from December quarter

State and local general government net operating balance recovered from December quarter 2020, and remains lower through the year.

Total state and local general government net operating balance is -$5.4 billion, an increase of $4.7 billion from December quarter 2020. Most state and local governments recorded an increase in net operating balance compared to the December quarter, with the exceptions being Western Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

Western Australia remained the only state to record consecutive positive net operating balances due to continued strength in revenues from royalties and stamp duties on conveyances.

Victoria and NSW drove the $1.8 billion fall in total state and local general government net operating balance through the year due to increased transfer expenses associated with COVID-19 support measures.

Taxation revenue continued recovery

Taxation revenue grew 5.1% to $144.9 billion, following a revised rise of 2.1% in the December quarter 2020.

Commonwealth taxation revenue returned to pre-pandemic levels

Total Commonwealth government taxation revenue grew 4.5% (up $5,082 million). A further improvement of business conditions and strong financial markets drove increases in income and capital gains taxes levied on enterprises. This strength was driven by company income tax (up 16.9% or $3,189 million) and income tax paid by superannuation funds (up $1,754 million).  

Personal income tax (down 2.6% or -$1,555 million) offset the strength in Commonwealth taxation revenue due to the introduction of lower income tax rates in December quarter 2020.

State and local government taxation revenue rose

Total state and local government taxation revenue rose 7.3% (up $1,922 million). This reflects further strength in stamp duties on conveyances (up 19.2% or $948 million) due to an increase in volume of transfers and rising property prices. Gambling tax continued to recover in the March quarter 2021, rising 16.7% (up $275 million) driven by the reopening of pubs, clubs, and venues in all states. 

Payroll tax rebounded (up 2.9% or $178 million) to pre-COVID-19 levels after four consecutive quarters of decline. This was as a result of improvement of business conditions and the cessation of payroll tax waivers across several states.

Public investment in new assets lifted by general government sector

Total public investment in new assets(b) continued to rise through the year to March quarter 2021. General government increased by 5.7% ($908 million), with broad strength across state and local government being led by Victoria and Queensland, reflecting increased budgetary spending on road, rail, health and education projects. Public corporations partly offset the strength in general government, decreasing 5.2% (-$260 million) driven by reduced investment in structures by Commonwealth corporations.

  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 increased as COVID-19 economic recovery continues

Total general government net worth was $71.4 billion, an increase of $68.2 billion from December quarter 2020, as assets increased and liabilities decreased. The rise in assets was driven by state government financial and fixed produced assets. Liabilities fell due to a reduction in debt securities issued by the Commonwealth government, as borrowing requirements for economic support payments during the COVID-19 pandemic eased. General government net worth decreased $155.3 billion through the year.

Net financial worth was -$912.6 billion, a rise of $43.6 billion from the December quarter estimate and a decrease of $217.3 billion from the March quarter 2020.

Upturn in university revenue while expenditure continues to fall

University sector total revenue increased through the year to March quarter 2021, following four consecutive quarters of negative growth. The rise was driven by revenue from current grants and subsidies.

Recent declines in operating revenue continue to impact on the capital investment programs of most Australian universities, with ongoing postponement or cancelation of new infrastructure projects.

Universities have implemented a range of cost cutting measures throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which have continued to place downward pressure on operating expenses this quarter. This fall is evident in both non-employee related expenses as well as compensation of employees, with redundancies made in prior quarters resulting in lower staffing levels and a reduction in wages and salaries paid this quarter.

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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