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Friday, 24 August 1984
Page: 382

Senator Walsh —On 7 June 1984 (Hansard, page 2759), Senator Sibraa asked me, as Minister representing the Treasurer, a question without notice concerning the March quarter national accounts data. The last part of his question asked what action the Australian Bureau of Statistics might be taking to correct discrepancies between the income-based and the expenditure-based estimates of gross domestic product. In reply I undertook to pursue the honourable senator's query and provide a more detailed answer.

I have now been informed by the Treasurer that as part of the ongoing effort to improve the quality of the national accounts, and reduce the discrepancy to which the honourable senator referred, the Bureau:

has recently expanded its survey of employment and earnings (this survey is used to derive figures for the income side of the national accounts data); and

is currently in the process of expanding the size of its profits survey.

Both these measures should result in an improvement in the quality of the income-based, and hence the published, estimates.

As part of its continuing commitment to improve the quality of the national accounts the Bureau is also looking into the following sources of the statistical discrepancy on the expenditure side of the accounts:

expenses associated with the sale of dwellings and other buildings and land;

capital expenditure on private dwellings for alterations and additions which either do not require a local government permit or for which the owner does not obtain the requisite permit; and

consumption expenditure on illegal goods and services.

In the end, however, there will always be some statistical discrepancy in the national accounts if only because of difficulties in measuring aggregate income and expenditure at the same moment. One specific example of this relates to small businesses which, because they do not always possess the same level of budgetary control as larger enterprises, cannot always supply accurate quarterly figures. It is important to appreciate that accurate quarterly GDP estimates are more difficult to generate than accurate annual estimates.

Nevertheless, the Statistician is confident that the national accounts provide a most useful guide to developments within the Australian economy.