Business

Dick Smith calls for food protection

Mr Smith instead praised Australia's big two supermarket chains for remaining Australian-owned, and said any attempts by government to diminish their market dominance would render them uncompetitive against foreign-owned companies.
Mr Smith instead praised Australia's big two supermarket chains for remaining Australian-owned, and said any attempts by government to diminish their market dominance would render them uncompetitive against foreign-owned companies. TRACEY NEARMY

ENTREPRENEUR Dick Smith says Australian country towns will be "boarded up" unless governments offer some form of protection to the food processing industry.

Just what form that protection might take would be up to government, although Mr Smith put forward some suggestions when he fronted a Senate inquiry into Australia's food processing sector in Canberra on Friday.

>>> Read Dick Smith's full submission to the inquiry here.

"If we want to have a viable farming community ... we'll either have to give some protection or decide, at least for the next couple of decades, that we're not going to have that industry at all," Mr Smith, who owns Dick Smith Foods, told the committee.

"Every country has some type of protection, and if we could say ... all retailers in Australia, both the German-owned Aldi and Aussie-owned Coles and Woolworths, have to have a certain percentage of Australian products, and we said to other countries we don't mind if you bring in the same rules, maybe that could be a good compromise.

"Consumers ... want the cheapest price. I think we should be told by our politicians we are going to give some protection ... so there will be a slight increase."

Mr Smith said while there were benefits to Australia signing up to free trade agreements, farming communities were often disadvantaged.

"I think we should be really looking and saying do we value our country towns, which I do; do we want to go to these country towns and find them boarded up, because our farmers paying $20-an-hour for labour will never be able to compete with Swaziland where they pay $5 a day. There has to be a balance there," he said.

"But don't blame Coles and Woolworths for it."

Mr Smith instead praised Australia's big two supermarket chains for remaining Australian-owned, and said any attempts by government to diminish their market dominance would render them uncompetitive against foreign-owned companies.

He said the German-owned supermarket chain Aldi "redefined the retail landscape" when it was given the green light to operate in Australia more than a decade ago."

In many ways I admire them (Coles and Woolworths)," Mr Smith said.

"We don't have that many Australian-owned businesses that you can really admire.

"They are as good as anything in the world, and they are ours. I am very proud ... that we own those companies."

He argued the Federal Government needed to look seriously at how penalty rates were paid in Australia.

"I think we should look at that because the alternative is everything will get processed overseas," he said.

"If Woolworths and Coles didn't have to pay such huge penalty rates maybe they can pay a little bit more to our farmers and stay in business."

But he said Australia needed to resist adopting an American-style wages system.

He used the example of American department store Walmart, which pays some workers just $8-an-hour.

"If Australians want low globalised prices, if we're not careful we'll have low globalised wages and I wouldn't want that," he said.

"I really think that it's fantastic that if you work for Woolworths you get paid twice what you do in America because we spread the wealth better.

"But if you go too far you won't have any business here.

"There must be a compromise between the two."

In his 12-page submission to the inquiry, Mr Smith rails against what he describes as "extreme capitalism" and the pursuit of "perpetual growth".

Topics:  coles, dick smith, protectionism, senate inquiry




Wooli's surfing sweetheart

COME ON, CARLY: Wooli grommet Carly Shanahan has been unstoppable on the waves this past fortnight.

Carly comes down from whirlwind fortnight of waves

It's no joke: there's growing support for dams and mega port

No Caption

Clarence Valley can no longer laugh off lobbying for schemes

Latest deals and offers

Cyndi Lauper opens up about mother's dementia

Cyndi Lauper says her mother Catrine has "a little dementia".

The McClymonts promise a few surprises for hometown show

10 YEARS OF HITS: The McClymonts will return to Grafton on August 5  at the Saraton Theatre.

First two shows of 10-year anniversary tour a sellout success

GIG GUIDE: Your weekly entertainment wrap

Neil Anderson - at the Yamba Golf and Country Club.

PLENTY of live music options in the Clarence Valley this weekend.

Lindsay Lohan 'calls off engagement'

Lohan reportedly called off her engagement to Russian millionaire

Dyer returns to Grafton after Lifetime release

BACK IN TOWN: Melanie Dyer plays the Clocktower on Friday night at 8.30pm.

The Voice 2012 contestant is heading to the Clocktower Hotel

Rob Kardashian 'neglected' by Blac Chyna

Friends say they are now 'back in love'

You can own this Queensland town for just $1

Yelarbon

Unprecedented auction of town's business centre with no reserve

Work starts on $15M Caloundra apartment building

Turning the first sod at the Aqua View Apartments site in Kings Beach are (from left) husband-and-wife developers Alex Yuan and Stella Sun with construction company Tomkins director Mike Tomkins and Councillor Tim Dwyer.

Developers excited about addition to Kings Beach skyline

Plans revealed for 1500-lot 'master-planned community'

Precinct will be bounded by Boundary St and Shoesmith Rd

Ecco Ripley sales run sparks prime release

MOVING IN: Sekisui House has announced the release of more residential blocks at Ecco Ripley.

Sekisui House is preparing to unveil more land at Ecco Ripley

Massive residential 9-storey high-rise hit by delays

An artist’s impression of the eight-storey-high apartment complex that Bernoth Holdings wants to build in South Toowoomba, next to the City Golf Club.

Developer struggles to get approved high-rise development started