Former prime minister Bob Hawke has criticised current political leaders while speaking at the West Australian launch of CEDA's latest publication, Setting Public Policy.
Mr Hawke said there was economic challenge that could not be solved without strong leadership, cohesive debate and consensus among key groups.
"There is not one outstanding political leader in any of the democracies anywhere in the world today and that's the first time since the Second World War," he said.
"Whatever your political persuasion, we should be doing our very best to persuade younger people of capacity to be thinking about a political career, we need better people in politics."
Discussing the qualities of good leadership, Mr Hawke noted the importance of leading and engaging the public service, interest and community groups. He also highlighted the need to not only lead but also listen.
"In my judgement effective leadership…a fair bit of it is about being a good listener," he said.
The idea of long term vision or lack of it by both sides of politics was also discussed at the CEDA function.
Mr Hawke said vision can often be over emphasised as a requirement of successful reform implementation.
"I don't think it's a question of some vision, it's a question of knowing and loving your country and realising it's got the capacity to do great things," he said.
"And then having the values which you can share with and embrace to a certain extent by a range of people.
On the subject of the challenges facing Australia, Mr Hawke said the solution to transforming the economy for Australia was taking the world's nuclear waste.
But Mr Hawke said education is the key to developing and adopting a new policy towards nuclear waste and energy.
"There is a way Australia can meet the (economic) challenges easily and transform the Australian economy and it requires political courage and it requires education," he said.
"Ignorance is the enemy of good policy so lets have a public debate…where all the information is there so people know the facts."
Mr Hawke also said strong leadership is needed to solve the problems of Australia's fiscal imbalance.
Former Liberal leader John Hewson also participated in the panel discussion with Mr Hawke.
He said current programs including Gonski and the National Disability Insurance Scheme are not funded past the immediate future.
"Both sides of politics today have a massive black hole because programs that are been announced are no funding in the medium term," he said.
"Big infrastructure programs are not funded in the medium term."
On what is required for the new government after the 7 September election, Mr Hewson said the next prime minister will have to redo economic forecasts and spending.
"Whoever wins government is going to have to spend a lot of time refocusing, targeting, cutting in order to deliver," he said.
Mr Hewson said there is no natural revenue base and the only way to deliver the programs announced is to end duplication at the different levels of government.
There are three big areas of concern, housing, superannuation and the GST which need to be examined by a new government, Mr Hewson said.
He said there needs to be a review that includes the GST but it is unlikely either political party will agree to increase any type of tax.
"I don't think you're going to see any of that debated seriously in the foreseeable future," he said.
"Whoever is in government in the next three to five years will have to address those issues."