The recession we absolutely had to have

For the first time in 30 years, younger Australians are confronted by recession, as the official figures have confirmed. It's the biggest contraction in economic activity we've seen since the Great Depression so for a whole generation it's a real baptism of fire.

Older people have seen recessions come and go in their lifetimes so they know there is light at the end of what can seem like a very dark tunnel. And in the regions, steady economic growth has never been part of our reality. We've always struggled with higher unemployment, particularly youth unemployment.

But this recession is different from all that have gone before. It has come about because of very deliberate government policy, all designed to deal with a global pandemic, the likes of which we haven't seen in a century. Part of the pandemic strategy has been to shut down the economy through lockdowns, to limit the movement of people in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Border closures, curfews, banning of mass gatherings ... they've all taken a toll on the economy and Wednesday's grim confirmation of how bad it is should come as no surprise.

This really is the recession we had to have.

You can't have a healthy economy if you have a critically ill population. You can't sacrifice parents and grandparents on the altar of continued economic growth. Sweden tried it, going down the herd immunity route and avoiding lockdowns and virus containment measures, and is now paying the price with an unacceptably high death rate.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who somehow got around the travel ban imposed on the rest of the Australian population, was excoriated when he suggested families "let nature take its course" when it came to COVID and the elderly.

But just because it's a recession we had to have will not make getting through it any easier. It will be particularly hard on younger Australians, for whom it's entirely new territory. They were already suffering from years of stagnant wage growth and being locked out of an overheated housing market.

Younger Australians and their children after them - possibly even their grandchildren - will shoulder the burden of debt amassed by the federal government's much needed economic life support through JobKeeper payments.

While the cure is tough, the disease if unchecked would be a lot worse. An economy can't function if its particpants are gravely ill.