Every government in Australia’s modern history has been able to point to one solid area of economic achievement. All, that is, except the current administration. Building and engineering construction -- until the last three years -- has always expanded steadily, despite floods, droughts, wars, recessions, depressions and Gough Whitlam.

By building new shopping centres, skyscrapers, housing estates, factories, offices, farms and mines, the construction sector has always generated jobs, wages, profits and wealth for the nation. Until now.

Construction in an unprecedented slump

Wednesday's figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show building and construction investment has now declined for three financial years in a row. That has never happened before. In fact, only twice since records have been kept have there been even two consecutive annual declines. The first was in 1982 and 1983 during the worldwide recession following the US savings and loans crisis. The second was in 1991 and 1992 at the depths of the early 1990s global recession.