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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2004  
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Contents >> Prices >> Consumer price index (CPI)

The description of the CPI commonly adopted by users is in terms of its perceived uses; hence the frequent references to the CPI as a measure of inflation, a measure of changes in purchasing power, or a measure of changes in the cost of living. In practice, the CPI is a measure of changes, over time, in the prices of a fixed basket of goods and services acquired by households in the eight capital cities in Australia. As such, the CPI has been designed as a general measure of price inflation for the household sector in Australia.

The simplest way of thinking about the CPI is to imagine a basket of goods and services of the kind acquired by Australian households. As prices vary, the total cost of this basket will also vary. The CPI is simply a measure of the changes in the cost of this basket as the prices of items in it change.

The price of the CPI basket in the reference base period is assigned a value of 100.0 and the prices in other periods are expressed as percentages of the price in the base period. For example, if the price of the basket had increased by 35% since the base year, then the index would read 135.0. Similarly, if the price had fallen by 5% since the base year, the index would stand at 95.0.

For practical reasons, the CPI basket cannot include every item bought by households, but it does include all the important kinds of items. It is not necessary to include every item that people buy since many related items are subject to similar price changes. The idea is to select representative items so that the index reflects price changes for a much wider range of goods and services than is actually priced.

From the September quarter 2000 onwards, the total basket is divided into the following 11 major commodity groups: food; alcohol and tobacco; clothing and footwear; housing; household furnishings, supplies and services; health; transportation; communication; recreation; education; and miscellaneous. These groups are in turn divided into 34 subgroups, and the subgroups into 89 expenditure classes.

In addition to the aggregate 'All groups' index, indexes are also compiled and published for each of the groups, subgroups and expenditure classes for each state capital city, Darwin and Canberra. National indexes are constructed as the weighted average of the indexes compiled for each of the eight capital cities.

The 14th Series CPI is the latest of a number of consumer/retail price indexes that have been constructed for various purposes by the ABS. The history of retail price indexes in Australia is published in Year Book Australia 1995.

Index population

The CPI measures price changes relating to the spending pattern of metropolitan private households. This group is termed the CPI population group. 'Metropolitan' is defined as the state capital cities, together with Darwin and Canberra.

This population group differs from that applying to CPIs calculated and published prior to the September quarter 1998. For more information see the article Outcomes of the 13th Series Australian Consumer Price Index Review in Year Book Australia 1999.

Conceptual basis

The CPI is a quarterly measure of the change in average price levels. It provides a method of comparing the average price level for a quarter with the average price level of other periods such as the reference base year, or other quarters. Changes in the average price levels between periods can be calculated from their respective index levels.

The CPI aims to measure only pure price changes. In other words, it is concerned with isolating and measuring only that element of price change which is not caused by any change to either the quantity or the quality of the goods or services concerned (i.e. it aims to measure, each quarter, the change in the cost of acquiring an identical basket of goods and services). This involves evaluating any changes in the quality of goods and services included in the index and removing the effects of such changes from the prices used to construct the index.

The CPI measures changes in the prices actually paid by consumers for the goods and services they buy. It is not concerned with nominal, recommended or list prices (unless they are the prices that consumers actually pay).

The CPI basket includes goods and services ranging from steak to motor cars and from dental fillings to restaurant meals. The items are chosen not only because they represent the spending habits of the CPI population group, but also because the items are those for which the prices can be associated with identifiable and specific commodities and services. While government taxes and charges that are associated with the use of specific goods and services (such as excise and customs duties, goods and services taxes, local government rates, etc.) are included, income taxes and the income-related Medicare levy are excluded because they cannot be clearly associated with the purchase or use of a specific quantity of any good or service.

Items are not excluded from the CPI basket on the basis of moral or social judgements. For example, some people may regard the use of tobacco and alcohol as socially undesirable, but these commodities are included in the CPI basket because they are significant items of household expenditure and their prices can be accurately measured. However, to assist in understanding the effect that major item groups have on the CPI, the ABS publishes a range of supplementary indexes which exclude, in turn, each of the 11 major commodity groups. These supplementary indexes can also be used in their own right for evaluating price changes or for indexation purposes.

Periodic reviews of the CPI

Like any other long-standing and important statistical series, the CPI is reviewed from time to time to ensure that it continues to be relevant to current conditions. Over time, household spending habits change, as does the range of available goods and services. The CPI needs to be updated to take account of these changes. Regular reviews also provide an opportunity to reassess the scope and coverage of the index and other methodological issues.

The CPI was first compiled in 1960, with index numbers backcast to 1948. Since its inception in its current form in 1960, reviews of the CPI have usually been carried out at about five-yearly intervals. Following each review, which involves revising the list of items and their weights, the new series are linked to the old to form continuous series. This linking is carried out in such a way that the resulting continuous series reflect only price changes and not differences in the composition of the old and new baskets.

The current (14th Series) CPI reflects expenditure patterns derived mainly from the 1998-99 Household Expenditure Survey (HES) and has a reference base of 1989-90. It was introduced in the September quarter 2000.

In addition to revising weights to reflect new expenditure patterns, the 14th Series CPI introduced a new utility-based commodity classification to better address possible consumer substitution between commodities in response to relative price changes arising from the introduction of The New Tax System (July 2000).

Weighting pattern

The composition of the CPI basket is based on the pattern of household expenditure in the 'weighting base period', which is 1998-99 for the 14th Series CPI. Measures of expenditure are obtained primarily from the ABS HES. The HES data, modified for known instances of under-reporting (the most notable being for alcohol and tobacco), are then used to derive a weight for each of the 89 expenditure classes. The weights for the 14th Series groups and subgroups based on June quarter 2000 prices are shown in table 28.1.


28.1 CONSUMER PRICE INDEX, Weighted average of capital cities(a)(b) - 14th Series

Groups and subgroups
Weight in CPI basket

Food
Dairy and related products
1.51
Bread and cereal products
2.20
Meat and seafoods
2.62
Fruit and vegetables
2.30
Non-alcoholic drinks and snack food
2.48
Meals out and take away foods
4.93
Other food
1.69
Total
17.72
Alcohol and tobacco
Alcoholic drinks
5.14
Tobacco
2.27
Total
7.41
Clothing and footwear
Men’s clothing
0.98
Women’s clothing
1.80
Children’s and infants’ clothing
0.47
Footwear
0.83
Clothing accessories, supplies & services
1.10
Total
5.19
Housing
Rents
5.60
Utilities
3.23
Other housing
10.91
Total
19.75
Household furnishings, supplies and services
Furniture and furnishings
3.58
Household appliances, utensils and tools
1.98
Household supplies
1.91
Household services
0.62
Total
8.09
Health
Health services
3.55
Pharmaceuticals
1.14
Total
4.69
Transportation
Private motoring
14.40
Urban transport fares
0.85
Total
15.25
Communication
Communication
2.88
Total
2.88
Recreation
Audio, visual and computing
2.70
Books, newspapers and magazines
1.08
Sport and other recreation
4.16
Holiday travel and accommodation
4.35
Total
12.29
Education
Education
2.69
Total
2.69
Miscellaneous
Insurance services
1.46
Personal care
2.14
Childcare
0.44
Total
4.04
All groups
100.00

(a) Percentages may not add due to rounding.
(b) Weights shown are those applicable from the June quarter 2000 onwards.
Source: Australian Consumer Price Index: Concepts, Sources and Methods (6461.0).

Price collection

Since the CPI is designed to measure the impact of changing prices on metropolitan private households, information about prices is collected in the kinds of retail outlets or other places where these households normally purchase goods and services. Prices are collected from many sources, including supermarkets, department stores, footwear stores, restaurants, motor vehicle dealers and service stations, dental surgeries, hotels and clubs, schools, hairdressers, telephone carriers, travel agents and airlines, bus operators, electricians and plumbers. Items like rail fares, electricity, gas and water and sewerage charges, and property rates and charges, are collected from the authorities concerned. Information on rents is obtained from property management companies and from government housing commissions. In total, around 100,000 separate price quotations are collected each quarter.

The collection of prices in each capital city is carried out by trained ABS field staff.

The prices used in the CPI are those that any member of the public would have to pay to purchase the specified good or service, including any taxes, excise and customs duties, etc. relating to goods and services. Sale prices, discount prices and 'specials' are reflected in the CPI so long as the items concerned are of normal quality (i.e. not damaged or shop-soiled), and are offered for sale in reasonable quantities. To ensure that the price movements reflect the buying experience of the bulk of the metropolitan population, the brands and the varieties of the items priced are generally those which sell in greatest volume.

Price movements by city

Table 28.2 presents All groups index numbers for each of the eight capital cities and for the weighted average of the eight capital cities, together with percentage changes.

28.2 CONSUMER PRICE INDEX, All groups index numbers(a)(b)

Sydney
Melbourne
Brisbane
Adelaide
Perth
Hobart
Darwin
Canberra
Weighted average of eight capital cities

INDEX NUMBER(c)

1997-98
120.5
119.8
121.6
121.6
118.0
121.3
121.3
120.4
120.3
1998-99
122.5
120.9
122.9
123.2
120.1
122.5
122.4
121.5
121.8
1999-2000
125.4
124.1
125.0
126.3
122.9
124.8
124.2
124.2
124.7
2000-01(d)
133.2
131.6
132.4
133.5
129.6
132.0
130.9
131.9
132.2
2001-02
137.2
135.3
136.3
137.2
133.1
134.7
133.7
135.2
136.0
2002-03
141.1
139.7
140.7
142.7
136.8
139.1
136.8
139.7
140.2

CHANGE FROM PREVIOUS YEAR (%)

1997-98
0.1
-0.1
0.5
-0.6
-0.3
-0.1
-0.2
-0.7
0.0
1998-99
1.7
0.9
1.1
1.3
1.8
1.0
0.9
0.9
1.2
1999-2000
2.4
2.6
1.7
2.5
2.3
1.9
1.5
2.2
2.4
2000-01(d)
6.2
6.0
5.9
5.7
5.5
5.8
5.4
6.2
6.0
2001-02
3.0
2.8
2.9
2.8
2.7
2.0
2.1
2.5
2.9
2002-03
2.8
3.3
3.2
4.0
2.8
3.3
2.3
3.3
3.1

(a) Reference base year is 1989-90 = 100.0.
(b) The separate city indexes measure price movements within each city individually. They do not compare price levels between cities.
(c) Index numbers for financial years are calculated as the simple arithmetic averages of the quarterly index numbers.
(d) The 2000-01 data were affected by the introduction of The New Tax System, in particular, the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from 1 July 2000.
Source: Consumer Price Index, Australia (6401.0).

The capital city indexes measure price movements over time in each city individually. They do not measure differences in price levels between cities. For example, the index for Adelaide in 2002-03 of 142.7, compared with the corresponding index for Perth of 136.8, does not mean that prices in Adelaide are higher than those in Perth. It simply means that, since the reference base period (1989-90), prices in Adelaide have increased by a greater percentage than those in Perth (42.7% compared with 36.8%).

Price movements by broad commodity group

Table 28.3 presents, for the weighted average of the eight capital cities, index numbers for each of the 11 major commodity groups of the 14th Series CPI and for All groups, together with percentage changes.

28.3 CONSUMER PRICE INDEX, Group index numbers - Weighted average of capital cities(a)

Food
Alcohol and tobacco
Clothing and footwear
Housing
Household furnishings, supplies and services
Health
Trans-
portation
Commun-
ication
Recre-
ation
Educa-
tion
Miscel-
laneous
All
groups

INDEX NUMBER(b)

1997-98
121.8
164.6
107.4
94.5
113.8
165.4
123.5
106.6
117.8
165.6
138.5
120.3
1998-99
126.5
168.7
106.7
95.8
113.7
163.4
122.1
102.9
119.4
174.1
143.5
121.8
1999-2000
129.2
175.2
105.5
99.9
113.3
158.7
128.9
97.8
120.4
182.4
153.2
124.7
2000-01(c)
135.6
194.7
112.5
107.9
117.3
164.3
137.0
104.7
124.6
191.4
166.0
132.2
2001-02
142.7
203.1
112.4
111.1
119.7
169.9
137.3
105.2
128.6
200.0
171.8
136.0
2002-03
147.9
208.9
113.3
115.1
121.0
181.5
140.6
108.5
131.9
210.0
178.6
140.2

CHANGE FROM PREVIOUS YEAR (%)

1997-98
1.8
2.0
0.1
-7.0
0.3
3.6
-0.6
0.1
2.4
6.2
3.8
0.0
1998-99
3.9
2.5
-0.7
1.4
-0.1
-1.2
-1.1
-3.5
1.4
5.1
3.6
1.2
1999-2000
2.1
3.9
-1.1
4.3
-0.4
-2.9
5.6
-5.0
0.8
4.8
6.8
2.4
2000-01(c)
5.0
11.1
6.6
8.0
3.5
3.5
6.3
7.1
3.5
4.9
8.4
6.0
2001-02
5.2
4.3
-0.1
3.0
2.0
3.4
0.2
0.5
3.2
4.5
3.5
2.9
2002-03
3.6
2.9
0.8
3.6
1.1
6.8
2.4
3.1
2.6
5.0
4.0
3.1

(a) Reference base year is 1989-90 = 100.0.
(b) Index numbers for financial years are calculated as the simple arithmetic averages of the quarterly index numbers.
(c) The 2000-01 data were affected by the introduction of The New Tax System, in particular, the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from 1 July 2000.
Source: Consumer Price Index, Australia (6401.0).

Long-term price series

Although the CPI has only been compiled from 1948, an approximate long-term measure of retail price change has been constructed by linking together other selected retail price index series (table 28.4). The index numbers are expressed on a reference base 1945 = 100.0. The successive series are:
  • from 1850 to 1901, Sydney retail price index
  • from 1901 to 1914, the A series retail price index
  • from 1914 to 1946-47, the C series retail price index
  • from 1946-47 to 1948-49, a combination of the C series index (excluding rent) and the housing group of the CPI
  • from 1948-49 onwards, the CPI.

For more information about these series see Year Book Australia 1995.

28.4 RETAIL PRICE INDEX NUMBERS(a)(b)

Year
Index no.
Year
Index no.
Year
Index no.
Year
Index no.
Year
Index no.
Year
Index no.

1850
53
1876
51
1902
50
1928
89
1954
206
1980
844
1851
56
1877
53
1903
49
1929
91
1955
211
1981
926
1852
56
1878
51
1904
46
1930
87
1956
224
1982
1,028
1853
69
1879
45
1905
48
1931
78
1957
229
1983
1,132
1854
89
1880
45
1906
48
1932
74
1958
233
1984
1,177
1855
103
1881
46
1907
48
1933
71
1959
237
1985
1,257
1856
78
1882
56
1908
51
1934
73
1960
245
1986
1,370
1857
82
1883
55
1909
51
1935
74
1961
252
1987
1,487
1858
86
1884
52
1910
52
1936
75
1962
251
1988
1,594
1859
73
1885
53
1911
53
1937
78
1963
252
1989
1,714
1860
72
1886
56
1912
59
1938
80
1964
258
1990
1,839
1861
71
1887
52
1913
59
1939
82
1965
268
1991
1,898
1862
65
1888
52
1914
61
1940
85
1966
276
1992
1,917
1863
58
1889
51
1915
70
1941
89
1967
286
1993
1,952
1864
60
1890
51
1916
71
1942
97
1968
293
1994
1,989
1865
64
1891
50
1917
75
1943
101
1969
302
1995
2,082
1866
60
1892
49
1918
80
1944
100
1970
313
1996
2,136
1867
50
1893
48
1919
91
1945
100
1971
332
1997
2,141
1868
54
1894
42
1920
103
1946
102
1972
352
1998
2,159
1869
46
1895
42
1921
90
1947
106
1973
385
1999
2,191
1870
48
1896
42
1922
87
1948
117
1974
443
2000
2,289
1871
47
1897
42
1923
89
1949
128
1975
510
2001
2,389
1872
43
1898
41
1924
88
1950
140
1976
579
2002
2,462
1873
47
1899
45
1925
88
1951
167
1977
650
1874
52
1900
43
1926
90
1952
196
1978
702
1875
53
1901
47
1927
89
1953
205
1979
766

(a) Reference base year is 1945 = 100.0.
(b) The index numbers relate to Sydney from 1850 to 1900; from 1901 to 1980 they relate to the weighted average of six state capital cities; and from 1981 to the weighted average of eight capital cities. Index numbers are for calendar years.
Source: ABS data available on request, Consumer Price Index.

International comparisons

In analysing price movements in Australia, an important consideration is Australia's performance relative to other countries. However, due to the many differences in the structure of the housing sector in different countries and in the way that housing is treated in their CPIs, a simple comparison of All groups (or 'headline') CPIs is often inappropriate. In order to provide a better basis for international comparisons, the Fourteenth International Conference of Labour Statisticians (1987) adopted a Resolution which called for countries to 'provide for dissemination at the international level of an index which excludes shelter, in addition to the all items index'.

Table 28.5 presents indexes for selected countries on a basis consistent with the resolution and broadly comparable with the Australian series 'All groups excluding Housing'.

28.5 CONSUMER PRICE INDEX, International comparisons(a)(b)

1997-98
1998-99
1999-2000
2000-01
2001-02
2002-03

INDEX NUMBER

Australia(c)
125.4
126.9
129.4
136.4
140.4
144.5
New Zealand
114.9
116.9
118.7
123.5
127.0
129.5
Hong Kong (SAR of China)
173.9
172.0
166.6
164.8
162.5
159.2
Indonesia
232.7
368.3
367.1
402.6
458.3
495.8
Japan
112.4
112.4
111.6
111.0
107.7
106.4
Republic of Korea (South)
162.1
169.0
172.1
179.2
185.0
190.9
Singapore
119.4
118.5
120.7
123.0
122.7
123.2
Taiwan
127.2
128.2
129.3
130.9
130.6
130.5
Canada
120.6
122.0
125.0
128.1
130.3
135.2
United States of America
125.8
127.2
130.9
135.3
136.4
138.9
Germany
121.0
121.5
122.2
123.7
126.0
127.4
United Kingdom
134.6
137.2
139.3
141.4
143.5
145.8

CHANGE FROM PREVIOUS YEAR (%)

Australia(c)
1.2
1.2
2.0
5.4
2.9
2.9
New Zealand
1.1
1.7
1.5
4.0
2.8
2.0
Hong Kong (SAR of China)
3.8
-1.1
-3.1
-1.1
-1.4
-2.0
Indonesia
33.7
58.3
-0.3
9.7
13.8
8.2
Japan
3.9
-
-0.7
-0.5
-3.0
-1.2
Republic of Korea (South)
7.1
4.3
1.8
4.1
3.2
3.2
Singapore
1.2
-0.8
1.9
1.9
-0.2
0.4
Taiwan
1.2
0.8
0.9
1.2
-0.2
-0.1
Canada
1.5
1.2
2.5
2.5
1.7
3.8
United States of America
1.2
1.1
2.9
3.4
0.8
1.8
Germany
1.8
0.4
0.6
1.2
1.9
1.1
United Kingdom
2.4
1.9
1.5
1.5
1.5
1.6

(a) Reference base year is 1989-90 = 100.0.
(b) All groups excluding housing.
(c) The 2000-01 data for Australia were affected by the introduction of The New Tax System, in particular, the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from 1 July 2000.
Source: Consumer Price Index, Australia (6401.0).


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