Why Dick Smith Electronics imported/Why I support Aussie farmers

Many people know that I’ve always supported Aussie farmers.  I believe that countries should do what they’re good at; the Swiss make the best watches, Asia make the best electronics and Australia grows the best food.

In 1989 I was asked by the Federal Government to be part of a television campaign promoting Australian Made, which my friend John Singleton (Singo) was working on with the then Prime Minister Bob Hawke.
Watch 00:31 min ad below:

You will notice how the ad makes it very clear that we should never accept mediocrity. “If Australian made is as good as the imported, we go for it every time”.

In relation to Dick Smith Electronics. Initially the business sold Australian made car radios, two-way radios, electronic components as well as manufacturing selective calling equipment. On 18 July 1973, when I was 29 years of age and five years after I started the business – the Whitlam Government without any prior notice, reduced the protective tariff duty on electronics. Within months many of my local suppliers started closing down and it wasn’t long before the huge manufacturing companies such as AWA and STC stopped manufacturing completely and started importing. At first I thought I’d have to close Dick Smith Electronics, but fortunately a good friend of mine – Peter Shalley who had a small business in York Street Sydney, took me to Hong Kong and Japan where he showed me how to import.

When I look back I believe that had Whitlam not reduced the duty, I could have continued manufacturing and buying from Aussie manufacturers, and would have been financially better off. Australia made everything in those days from TV tubes to transistors, and both Gary Johnston (who owns JAYCAR and originally worked with me at Dick Smith Electronics), and I recall these as great days. Neither of us have ever been totally convinced that the Whitlam Government changes were the way to go.

PS. I sometimes read the most ridiculous claims in the media, such as: “Dick Smith is a hypocrite for supporting Australian farmers because he imported electronics from Japan, forcing AWA to close. As outlined above, the actual story is quite different – a young, enthusiastic businessman with a tiny electronics business had no effect on the giant, publicly listed AWA.




  1. Right on dick

  2. When do the media ever put it the right way, never let facts spoil a good story! You’re right that no country can make everything & be great at it, not even the USA nor Germany & Japan try to do so. But it is sad that the stroke of a pen under Whitlam set the ball rolling for the closure of Aussie businesses, which became the end of the fair go for all which we have now.

    Many Baby Boomers have little idea what it’s like for today’s school leavers who, like our farmers, are given little help from our govt, unlike the way they were when they were working. It’s certainly inter-generational inequality, some regard it as “theft”. Both sides of politics seem OK with this, and wonder why they are no longer trusted by many Aussies. Go figure.

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