Australia's peak business and industry groups have united to warn the federal parliament that a step back from fixing the country's finances would lead to " economic despair."
As collapsing iron ore prices carve a mammoth hole in the federal budget, peak bodies including the Business Council of Australia (BCA) and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) on Tuesday issued a strongly-worded open letter to MPs urging them to reform, not retreat, from unpopular budget measures.
After the federal government's first budget last year was poorly received by the electorate for being too harsh on low- income earners, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his colleagues have promised to hand down a "dull" and "routine" budget in May.
This would be a poor decision, with potentially catastrophic consequences, according to the business groups, who said Australia cannot continue to mortgage its future "on the questionable assumption" that the budget would be fixed in the "never-never."
"The reality of where prosperity comes from, however, is much more sobering and if neglected will set us on a path to economic despair," the letter, published by News Corp, said.
The so-called Group of Nine credit "courageous business and political leaders" gone-by for the nation's 25 years of uninterrupted economic growth and said MPs should govern in the tradition of the "reform giants" before them -- Labor duo Bob Hawke and Paul Keating and Liberal duo John Howard and Peter Costello.
As the population ages and official estimates predict a drop in the ratio of working-age to those over 65 to 2.7-to-1, the group said urgent reform was needed to encourage older people to remain in the workforce for longer.
"There is no escaping the fact that reform is hard and often unpopular in the short term, but Australians are vastly better off for the actions of a previous generation of leaders."
"Our high standard of living is due largely to generations of courageous business and political leaders who have championed difficult but necessary reforms to improve productivity and create wealth," the letter said.
"Today, our leaders must stand on the shoulders of these reform giants and ensure our living standards remain among the highest in the world."
"Past giants of economic reform did what was right for the long- term benefit of Australia and not because it was politically expedient -- it very rarely if ever was."
The letter was authored by business groups covering mining, groceries, property, restaurants, farming and other industry groups. They represent a large portion of the economic activity in Australia.