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ABS may ditch some key economic reports

AAP logoAAP 13/10/2016

Australians, economists and financial markets could be left in the dark about how the economy is performing for longer periods, with the federal government's statistician threatening to cut back on its publications because of budget restrictions.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics says its present work program may not be affordable beyond 2016/17 and is consulting with its partners and stakeholders on some statistical series.

These include data on retail, housing and lending finance figures - which are released monthly - and a number of international trade releases.

Shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh says these are critical figures, with retail data often a leading indicator of whether there's an economic downturn coming along.

Housing finance statistics also give a guide as to the debt load Australians are facing.

"(They) also give us an indicator as to how the housing markets themselves are tracking," Dr Leigh told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

"To rip away those statistics is another admission the Turnbull government has no plan on housing affordability."

The ABS will continue to deliver "quality economic statistics" on the national accounts and the consumer price index, which are released quarterly, and the monthly labour force report.

Australian Statistician David Kalisch said it was standard practice to review the agency's program each year.

"No decisions on the ABS' work program for 2017-18 and beyond have yet been taken," he said in a statement on Thursday.

"Future consultation will consider our broad legislative obligations and options regarding the value, usefulness and frequency of some indicators."

He said the ABS must operate within its budget like all government agencies.

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