Australia is facing a recession, Assistant Treasurer Chris Bowen said on Tuesday, in the government's bluntest assessment yet of the country's economic prospects.
The country posted its first negative growth figures for eight years in the final quarter of 2008 and a string of poor economic indicators since then have prompted analysts to predict a similar outcome in the current quarter.
That would officially tip Australia into recession, defined as two quarters of negative growth.
But Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan have steadfastly refused to mention the word recession in relation to Australia's economy, despite repeated questioning on the subject.
Instead, both have said it will be "virtually impossible" for the economy to record positive growth in the context of a global recession.
But Bowen did not shy away from the term on Tuesday when quizzed on commercial radio about whether a recession was looming in Australia.
"We haven't gone there -- but we do have, we are seeing, a slowdown and the prime minister has made it very clear, and I agree with him, of course, that avoiding recession will be difficult," he said.
Bowen said the government was doing its "level best" to make sure that economic and jobs growth were as robust as possible.
"We have said all along this crisis will wash over Australia. It will have an impact, but our job is to make the impact as small as we possibly can," he said.
The government has put in place two stimulus packages totalling more than $50 billion($35 billion) in an effort to boost spending and save jobs as the global crisis hits.