horro and chill wings

horro and chill wings

Recessions hurt most vulnerable: Treasury

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Australia has enjoyed 28 years of continuous economic expansion, but it is often said the country needs the wake-up call of a recession to get much needed reforms done.

But one of Treasury's top economists has quashed such an idea.

Deputy secretary of Treasury's macroeconomics group, Meghan Quinn, told a national conference in Canberra recessions are incredibly regressive and impact on people who can least afford to lose their incomes.

"I think we need to move a little bit away from the idea we have to have a burning platform in order to be able to get change," Ms Quinn told the Committee for Economic Development of Australia's State of the Nation conference.

"I think we are clever enough and smart enough as a nation ... to be able to change without the pain."

She said the fact Australia didn't have a major recession with the rest of the world during the global financial crisis was a significant achievement.

"If we had gone into recession like all other countries, our economic wealth would be about 10 to 15 per cent lower," she said.

Opening the conference, CEDA chief executive Melinda Cilento looked back at former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd's 2020 summit a decade ago.

"I have to be frank, at the time, I thought that was a weekend in my life that I would never get back," she quipped.

But she said it is useful marker of the country's progress, as well as the opportunities that have been lost.

Among the summit's resolutions was the productivity agenda, the future economy, population sustainability, climate change and water, a national health strategy and the future of indigenous Australians, to name a few.

"How many in this room today can put their hand on their heart and say we have made meaningful progress in these areas across numerous governments, more than a handful of prime ministers and countless, countless reviews and reports?" she said.

By international standards Australia has maintained a strong economy, its fiscal circumstances are streaks ahead of its peers and levels of income have grown.

There have been important reforms like the NDIS, there is low unemployment and record high rates of labour force participation.

But she said opportunities for serious tax reform have come and gone, productivity has stalled, energy and emissions policy is not providing the certainty needed by business, too many people are in poverty and there has been little progress in closing the gap for indigenous Australians.

She believes Australia's economic development needs an update.

"We need nimble, responsive, forward looking reforms that reinforce one another and position our economy and society to respond well to new technologies, to an ageing population and an increasingly fast-paced, turbulent and uncertain world," Ms Cilento said.

© AAP 2019