Recession warning issued by former Treasury head

A FORMER senior Treasury official has warned the nation is "sleepwalking into a real mess", citing a potential recession if economic reform is not taken seriously.

Former Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson was among several business, political and community sector leaders at a national reform summit in Sydney on Wednesday.

He said there was a real risk the nation's economy could shrink 5% over the next decade if action was not taken to reform the economy.

Mr Parkinson spoke after Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens, who urged the forum to go for economic growth rather than possibly harder-to-reach reforms.

The comments by the two men followed the release of a report on Wednesday by BIS Shrapnel warning of a three-year economic slowdown due to the mining boom's end.

Frustrated with a lack of reform from both sides of politics, business and community leaders have called for the forum to nut out the issues that need to be addressed.

Although attendees agreed on a need to reform the economy, representatives of the unions, business and community sector were yet to settle on the detail of specific issues including superannuation, industrial relations and welfare.

Labor leader Bill Shorten urged the forum to drop the political arguments on climate change and endorse an emissions trading scheme for the nation.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said there was a need to put "fast-moving consumers" at the centre of economic reforms, as digital disruption had streaked ahead of legislative reforms.

He said debating issues like weekend shopping hours was now almost redundant given the rise of online shopping and how it had driven change.

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