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Dick wants end to profit-at-all-cost

Tuesday, 21st May, 2013

Dick Smith gave a controversial speech about the negative side of growth in the mining sector. Dick Smith gave a controversial speech about the negative side of growth in the mining sector.

By Erica Visser

Entrepreneur Dick Smith addressed yesterday’s large crowd of mining delegates on a subject they would rather not have heard.

Mr Smith, who in 1968 founded the electronics retailer which still bears his name, was an unlikely speaker given that he has no background in the mining industry.

However, the 69-year-old said that he knew a lot about the “relentless and never-ending push from big companies to have greater profits.”

Mr Smith started Dick Smith Electronics with “$610 in his pocket” and sold it to Woolworths for $20 million 14 years later.

He went on to develop Dick Smith’s Foods and Australian Geographic and in 2011 published a book titled “Dick Smith’s Population Crisis: The dangers of unsustainable growth for Australia.”

Fittingly, the focus of yesterday’s speech was on the cons of economic growth, and overpopulation and the finite nature of resources.

Mr Smith likened the country’s reliance on population growth to fund services such as the aged pension to a “Ponzi scheme.”

“It’s a never-ending perpetual growth nightmare. Is there an alternative?,” he said.

“Can you live in balance with nature or, as Prince Charles would say, live in harmony?

“I think the answer is yes; a growth in quality of life and not quantity of life.

“The world’s population is predicted to go from seven billion to 10 billion by the end of the century, when our grandchildren will still be alive,” he said.

“The resources are finite; it won’t go on forever.

“If we maximise foreign investment now, surely we owe it to the next generations, our children and grandchildren...to save something for them.

“I know I am glad that former generations before me did not exploit resources before I was born.”

Mr Smith, Australian of the Year in 1989, expressed particular concern about the lifespan of Australia’s major commodities, minerals, energy and agricultural reserves, if the population was to continue to rapidly expand through immigration.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could get a proper investment in our own resources, rather than rely on the Ponzi Scheme of continuous population inclines to pay for old age?” he said.

“People can’t believe that someone could doubt growth but I have a feeling if we keep this non-sustainable growth a lot of us will end up starving.

“I have some very rich friends who are miserable.”

After the presentation, Mr Smith was challenged by a member of the audience, who said that mining companies were always finding more resources and they would not run out in the foreseeable future.

Mr Smith disputed this, but many members of the audience nodded in agreement.

He and wife Pip flew to the city in his plane for the conference and will leave tomorrow.

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