Treasurer Wayne Swan has dismissed criticism that an economic forum the government is hosting in Brisbane is just another talkfest.
About 150 representatives from government, business, unions, academia and the not-for-profit sector will take part in the event today and tomorrow.
"This is a very important discussion," Mr Swan told ABC Radio, citing the challenges and opportunities that were coming with the Asian century.
Those challenges demanded not only responses from government and business but also from right across communities, he said.
Australian policymakers must not "rest on our laurels" but discuss current and future problems and appropriate policy settings.
"Getting people together in the way we've done on this occasion is what people are crying out for and that's why we have convened it," Mr Swan said.
Among the issues on the agenda are the impact of the high Australian dollar, skills and education, infrastructure investment, innovation, competition and deregulation.
The first progress report on the Asian Century white paper is expected to be presented to the forum.
Missing from the forum will be premiers from NSW, which brought down its budget today, WA and Queensland.
Senator Wong said the premiers' stance was disappointing.
"Our preference is for them to be part of this dialogue," she told ABC radio.
She said she'd like to see politics put aside in the interests of the national economy.
WA Premier Colin Barnett has said he won't attend because parliament is sitting, but may send an observer.
Queensland's Campbell Newman said his new government was too busy getting on with the job of running the state.
Federal opposition frontbencher George Brandis said the premiers were too busy to sit around a hotel for a day.
"The leaders of the productive states of the economy ... have far more useful things to do than allow themselves to be extras," Senator Brandis told Sky News.
The forum was essentially a Labor Party publicity stunt to be conducted by the "most economically catastrophic" government anybody could remember, he said.