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Tuesday, 25 March 1997
Page: 2462

(Question No. 422)

Senator Brown asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 12 February 1997:

With reference to the measurement unit for woodchip exports from Australia, as reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which classified items using the Australian harmonised export commodity classification (AHECC), comprising: (a) 44012210 non-coniferous woodchips in hardwood; (b) 44012110 coniferous woodchips; and (c) 44012190 coniferous wood particles:

(1) (a) What is the original source for this data; (b) who is responsible for generating the original data; (c) where is the first point of collection of the original data for the Commonwealth Government; and (d) what is the path that the data travels to reach the ABS.

(2) (a) What are the units of measurement in which the original data is reported; (b) what is the definition of each of these units of measurement; (c) how is the weight and/or volume of chip exports measured to generate the original data; (d) who makes the measurement; (e) what volume of water would remain in the chips as they are loaded on the ship; and (f) how would this differ from a bone dry measurement.

(3) (a) What adjustments or conversions are made to the original data by the ABS, or any other Commonwealth or State agency, to generate the ABS reported data; and (b) what is the ABS definition of tonne.

(4) Does the ABS, or any other Commonwealth Government agency, undertake any monitoring or verification of the export woodchip data, as reported by exporters to Customs.

Senator Kemp —The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) (a) The original source for all data on merchandise exports published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is information provided on export entries reported to the Australian Customs Service (ACS).

(b) The original data are generated by exporters and reported by them or their agents via the Custom's export reporting database (EXIT) system.

(c) The original data are reported to the ACS, by exporters or their agents, initially prior to the shipment of the goods. At this stage, exporters are required to provide, among other things, estimates in terms of long green tonnes and bone dry units. Once the woodchips are loaded onto the ship, actual measurements, in terms of long green tonnes and bone dry units, are made as explained in 2(c) and (d) below. Exporters are then required to advise ACS of any revisions to their original estimates.

(d) All export entries (including revisions) reported to ACS are processed and passed to ABS the following business day via a direct electronic communications link. Therefore, published data for any particular month will be based on exporters' initial estimates, where final estimates are not available in time for publication, or final estimates where these have been received. Where initial estimates have been published, revised estimates are published in subsequent months as necessary.

(2) (a) The original data are required to be reported in terms of green long tonnes and bone dry units.

(b) Green long tonne refers to the weight of the woodchips or particles when shipped. One long tonne is equivalent to 2,240 lb. A bone dry unit is the quantity of woodchips or particles equivalent to 2,400 lb of the oven dry wood substance.

(c) and (d) The measurement of green long tonnes on each ship is calculated on the basis of the volume of water displaced. This measurement is made by an independent marine surveyor who conducts an International Standard Draft Survey. The measurement of bone dry units is made by taking a sample of each shipment, weighing it, oven drying it to remove all moisture, and weighing it again. This measurement is made by the exporter.

(e) and (f) For any particular shipment, the volume of water remaining in the chips depends on the species of wood and the season. Overall, the measurement in bone dry units is approximately 50 per cent of the measurement in green long tonnes.

(3) (a) No automatic adjustments or conversions are made to the original data by the ABS or any Commonwealth or State agency in generating the ABS reported data. However, the ABS applies various edit checks to records received from ACS to detect possible errors. If data are found to be incorrect, the ABS amends the data.

(b) See the response to 2(b) above.

(4) Yes. The ABS applies edit checks to the data, investigates inconsistencies and if necessary amends records after contact with the exporter or agent. In addition, inaccuracies in published data are sometimes detected by users of the statistics with industry expertise who alert the ABS about their concerns. This can result in ABS querying exporters and, where necessary, amending the data.

Exporters are also required to report export data on hardwood woodchips derived from native forests on a commercial-in-confidence basis directly to the Woodchip Export Monitoring Unit (WEMU) of the Department of Primary Industries and Energy (DPIE) (which formally commenced operation on 1 January 1996), solely for the purpose of monitoring compliance with hardwood woodchip export licence conditions restricting export volumes. For the 1996 licence year, the data were verified by random audits of exporters by independent consultants engaged by WEMU. For the 1997 licence year, exporters are required to provide to WEMU audited statements in relation to this data.