MELBOURNE: Australia's economy was likely already in recession, Reserve Bank of Australia governor Glenn Stevens said Tuesday.
"I think the reasonable person, looking at all the information available now, would come to the conclusion that the Australian economy, too, is in recession," Stevens said.
The central bank chief's comments come a day after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said it was inevitable that the global downturn would drag Australia into its first recession since the early 1990s.
Australia's economy posted its first negative growth figures for eight years in the final quarter of 2008, and is expected to do the same in the first three months of 2009.
That would officially tip Australia into recession, usually defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.
But Stevens said regardless of the figures, it was reasonable to conclude that the recession had already arrived.
"It is very rare for Australia to escape an international downturn and there is no precedent for avoiding one of this size," he said.
Stevens said there were positives in the economy, citing resilient consumer confidence, political stability, the fact that the government was not propping up the banking sector, and strong financial regulation.
"Australia’s genuine long-term economic prospects remain good, and there remain good grounds to think that we will continue to weather the storm better than most," he said.
Stevens also said Australia's links to Asia provided a strong source of potential growth.
"There is an exposure to, and an engagement with, an Asian region that still has the most dynamic growth potential in the world, where hundreds of millions of people will for decades to come be seeking rising living standards," he said.
The central bank chief singled out China, saying recent commodity price rises appeared to show the its emergence -- which has underpinned Australia's economy in recent years -- was continuing.
"It is probably not entirely coincidental that the clearest signs of a turning point in economic activity appear to be accumulating in China, though not exclusively there," he said.
Stevens said the recession was Australia's eighth since World War II.
"Every so often -- on average about once every seven or eight years, but not regularly enough to predict with accuracy -- a set of conditions arise that see demand weaken for a while, output decline and unemployment rise," he said.
"That is a recession."
Rudd conceded for the first time Monday that recession was inevitable in Australia, saying the country's economy could not withstand the worst global downturn in 75 years.
The government predicted in February that Australia's economy would grow 0.75 percent in 2009-10 but analysts expect the figure will be revised down into negative territory in the annual Budget, due on May 12.