Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Smith takes aim at globalisation, economic greed

Australian businessman Dick Smith took aim at economic greed and globalisation for the problems faced by the Australian dairy industry at Wednesday's Farmer Power meeting in Tongala.

ASHLEA KUNOWSKI February 15, 2013 4:22am

Dick Smith visited St Patrick's in Tongala while he was in the area on Wednesday.

Dick Smith has blamed the problems faced by the Australian dairy industry on ‘‘globalisation gone mad’’.

Speaking at the Farmer Power crisis meeting in Tongala this week, the popular entrepreneur blamed economic greed for Australia’s recent status as a major importer of processed food.

‘‘We have an economic system that requires perpetual growth in profits,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s we, the typical shareholder in Australia, who insists on those extra profits so inadvertently we end up screwing the farmers down.’’

Mr Smith said while the situation had become problematic, it would continue to be an inevitable part of corporate business.

‘‘It’s not what we want to do, but it’s the result of insisting on having our shares grow in value,’’ he said.

He said it would be up to the Federal Government to reassess their economic strategy, which was currently failing Australian agriculture and business by not supporting local farmers.

‘‘We need to have discussions on a political level on how we run our economy with a different type of growth,’’ he said.

While Mr Smith’s own success has been driven by innovation, he said the current global situation would likely dictate the future changes in the Australian dairy industry.

With the big two supermarkets forcing the domestic milk prices down, he said there may be a move towards importing cheaper milk products.

‘‘I believe with globalisation there will be pressure to go to UHT in Australia so they can buy it from China — anywhere,’’ he said.

‘‘They’ll realise they can’t force the farmer any lower so they’ll go to UHT so they can import it from Swaziland or China.

‘‘That’s what’s happening in Europe50 per cent of their milk is UHT.’’

However, Mr Smith said consumers would buy Australian-made produce if there was a choice, likening the dairy industry situation to his current Heinz beetroot lawsuit.

‘‘They thought they could go to New Zealand and everyone would buy the crap... (but) when there’s alternative, they’ll stick with Australia,’’ he said.

Mr Smith told the crowd farmers would have to become more vocal if they wanted change.

‘‘They should be more outspoken, they should be out there saying their milk is better quality and they should have a special brand that Aussie farmers think that’s better quality,’’ he said.

While his Australia Day commercials were banned, he said it was an important step for the agriculture industry.

‘‘We had over half a million it was the best thing we could ever do for Australian farmers,’’ he said.

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