5501.0.55.001 - Government Financial Estimates, Australia, Electronic Delivery, 2004-05  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 29/10/2004   
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1 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 commercial (or market) basis (public non-financial corporations) or engage in financial intermediation (public financial corporations).

2 The term 'government finance statistics' refers to statistics that measure the financial activities of governments and reflect the impact of those activities on other sectors of the economy. The Australian system of Government Finance Statistics (GFS) is designed to provide statistical information on public sector entities in Australia classified in a uniform and systematic way.

3 GFS enables policy makers and users to analyse the financial operations and financial position of the public sector at either the level of a specific government, institutional sector or set of transactions. The system is based on international standards set out in the System of National Accounts 1993 (SNA93) and the International Monetary Fund's Government Finance Statistics Manual 2001.

4 The term 'government financial estimates' (GFE) refers to statistics that measure the financial activities of governments compiled from initial budget forecasts rather than final audited data. GFE data is compiled from initial budget forecasts. It does not take account of more recently published or revised forecasts such as those contained in mid-term revisions issued by any jurisdiction.

5 The purpose of this GFE publication is therefore to assist users making an assessment of each jurisdiction's initial budget on a GFS basis, recognising budgets are brought down at different times in different jurisdictions.


6 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. These units are grouped as follows:

  • General Government
  • Public Non-financial Corporations
  • Non-financial Public Sector
  • Public Financial Corporations
  • Total Public Sector

7 This release contains general government data only. GFE releases will no longer include any Public Non-financial Corporation or Non-financial Public Sector tables. The General Government Expenses by Purpose (2 digit) table is also no longer produced. Information on expenses by purpose, and for sectors other than the general government sector for completed rather than forecast financial years will continue to be available in Government Finance Statistics, Australia (cat. no. 5512.0), released in April each year.

General Government

8 The principal function of General Government entities is to provide non-market goods and services (e.g. roads, hospitals, libraries) primarily financed by taxes, to regulate and influence economic activity, to maintain law and order, and to redistribute income by means of transfer payments.

9 This institutional sector covers the departments of the Commonwealth Government, state governments and local government municipalities. It also includes agencies and government authorities under departmental administration which are engaged in the provision of public administration, defence, law enforcement, welfare, public education, and health. Also included are non-departmental bodies which independently perform the government functions of regulation (e.g. Nurses Registration Boards and the Maritime Safety Authority), provision of non-market services (e.g. the Australian Broadcasting Corporation), and redistribution of income (e.g. the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission). Some of these bodies may be corporations, but they are still considered part of the general government sector if they perform general government functions. Universities are also considered part of the general government sector.

10 Unincorporated government enterprises which provide goods and services to their governments and to the public at prices that are not economically significant are also included in this sector. In addition, government quasi-corporations which sell their output exclusively to other government units, while not in open competition with other producers, are also classified as general government units.


11 The public sector comprises all organisations owned or controlled by any of the four levels of government within the Australian political system; Commonwealth, state, local, and multi-jurisdictional.

Commonwealth Government

12 The Commonwealth Government has exclusive responsibility under the Constitution for the administration of a wide range of functions including defence, foreign affairs and trade, and immigration. A distinctive feature of the Australian federal system is that the Commonwealth Government levies and collects all income tax, from individuals as well as from enterprises. It also collects a significant portion of other taxes, including taxes on the provision of goods and services. The Commonwealth Government distributes part of this revenue to other levels of government, principally the states.

State Governments

13 State and territory governments (referred to as 'state' governments) perform the full range of government functions, other than those the Constitution deems the exclusive domain of the Commonwealth government. The functions mainly administered by state governments include public order, health, education, administration, transport and maintenance of infrastructure. The revenue base of state governments consists of taxes on property, on employers' payrolls, and on the provision and use of goods and services. This revenue base is supplemented by grants from the Commonwealth government, which now includes an allocation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) revenue.

Local Governments

14 Local government authorities govern areas typically described as cities, towns, shires, boroughs, municipalities and district councils. Although the range of functions undertaken by local governments varies between the different jurisdictions, their powers and responsibilities are generally similar and cover such matters as:
  • the construction and maintenance of roads, streets and bridges;
  • water, sewerage and drainage systems;
  • health and sanitary services;
  • the regulation of building standards; and
  • the administration of regulations relating to items such as slaughtering, weights and measures, and registration of dogs.

15 Local governments also provide transport facilities, hospitals, charitable institutions, recreation grounds, parks, swimming pools, libraries, museums and other business undertakings. Local governments' own-source revenue is derived mainly from property taxes. They also rely on grants from the Commonwealth government and their parent state governments. The Australian Capital Territory has no separate local government.


16 The multi-jurisdictional sector contains units where jurisdiction is shared between two or more governments, or classification of a unit to a jurisdiction is otherwise unclear. The main type of units currently falling into this category are the public universities.


17 The main GFS classification underlying these forecasts is the Economic Type Framework - this is the main classification of stocks and flows. The Economic Type Framework 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.

18 More information on the GFS concepts and classifications used in this publication is available in Government Finance Statistics, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5514.0.55.001), released in electronic form on the ABS Website via the Statistical Concepts Library on 10 October 2003.


Data sources

19 For the Commonwealth government and all individual state and territory governments the statistics shown in this release are based on information provided in, or underlying, the published budget projections of the 2004-05 financial year plus additional dissections of reported transactions and balances as provided by the relevant jurisdiction.

20 GFE data for local governments and the multi-jurisdictional sector are not collected and have been estimated by the ABS.


21 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.

22 Consolidation is particularly important at the state government level where a significant proportion of total expenses/payments are financed by grants from the Commonwealth government.


23 The statistics in this release 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.

24 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 a state level of government exists in the Australian Capital Territory and a number of functions performed by it are undertaken by local government authorities in other jurisdictions.

25 Interstate comparisons of data may also be significantly affected by differences in the mix of operations undertaken by state governments and local governments. For example:
  • water and sewerage undertakings in Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia are operated exclusively by state authorities, but are run by local governments in other jurisdictions; and
  • government transport undertakings are operated exclusively by state authorities in all states except Queensland where bus transport is operated by the local government sector.


26 Users may refer to the following publications which contain related information:

Government Finance Statistics, Australia (cat. no. 5512.0) - issued annually
Government Finance Statistics, Australia, Quarterly (cat. no. 5519.0.55.001) - issued quarterly
Government Finance Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5514.0.55.001) - available in electronic form on the ABS Website via the Statistical Concepts Library
Taxation Revenue, Australia (cat. no. 5506.0) - issued annually