Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens has backed Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson, saying a conversation about the nation's finances were vital.

Delivering a speech in Brisbane, where he warned Australia would soon face a shortage of workers, Mr Stevens said while Australia's financial position was stronger than most the issues facing the country were not trivial.

Dr Parkinson has started a political storm with a speech in which he said an increase or extension of the GST and a lift in fuel excise had to be on the table.

He warned the nation was facing a substantial shortfall between the services it wanted and the money raised from a tax base increasingly reliant on personal income tax.

Already the Government has been forced to argue it is not supporting a change to the GST - a policy it took to the last election.

Mr Stevens said the debate over the Budget had been "overly-focused" on the surplus or deficit in one particular year.

He said it was more important to look at medium term issues facing the Budget.

That meant taking on board the issues raised by Dr Parkinson who also sits on the Reserve Bank board.

"Put simply, there are things we want to do as a society, and have voted for, that are not fully funded by taxes over the medium term, as is starting to become clear in the lead up to the May budget," he said.

"Our situation is not dire by the standards of other countries but neither are the issues trivial.

"A conversation needs to be had about this."

Mr Stevens also used his speech to raise concerns about the jobs market and in particular a looming shortage of workers.

He said while unemployment had moved up over recent months, the biggest long term threat to the nation was businesses running out of prospective employees.

The ageing of society meant fewer and fewer people would be available to fill vacancies.

"Cyclical things aside, the more likely problem in the medium-term future won't be one of not enough jobs, but instead, not enough workers," he said.

"At present the number of new entrants to the labour force after finishing education each year exceeds the number retiring.

"Ten years from now those numbers could be roughly equal, absent a further rise in labour participation in the older cohorts."

Mr Stevens said apart from migration the only way to fill the employment space was through higher productivity.

ENDS

The West Australian

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