15 Feb 2011

High commodity prices may not last - BCA warning

1:37 pm on 15 February 2011

The Business Council of Australia is warning the federal government not to be complacent about the longevity of the resources boom, saying high commodity prices may not last.

The view of many economic forecasters, including the Reserve Bank, is that the resources boom is here for the long term.

The ABC reports that many think continuing demand from China and India for Australia's iron ore and coal will underpin the health of the budget.

But in a pre-budget submission, the BCA says a small change in commodity prices or Australia's terms of trade could create a budget shortfall.

President Graham Bradley says there is no such thing as a sure thing.

The BCA has cited research from Access Economics that commodity price surges are temporary rather than permanent.

Access warns that iron ore prices could halve and coking coal prices could fall by 38% over the long term.

That could lead to a budget shortfall of between $A7.5 - $A36 billion.

Mr Bradley says rather than relying on the boom, the federal government should prepare for potential shocks.

The BCA's concerns have been echoed by Grattan Institute.

Economist Saul Eslake says Australia needs to learn from previous commodities booms by creating a sovereign wealth fund as a buffer against future corrections.