Dick Smith on the ABC: 'They come on with lie after lie’
DICK Smith is furious over a Wednesday night segment on the ABC's The Drum which the outspoken entrepreneur claims was "full of lies".
Mr Smith, who this week announced he would launch attack ads against the national broadcaster for "treasonous" bias in the debate over Australia's population growth, said he was "unbelievably angry" after watching the segment.
The episode featured host Julia Baird, Choice chief executive Alan Kirkland, marketing strategist Toby Ralph, Institute of Public Affairs author Georgina Downer and Fairfax journalist Mark Kenny.
"It was just full of lies," Mr Smith said.
Last month, Mr Smith launched a $1 million advertising campaign calling for Australia's annual migration intake to be scaled back from 200,000 to the long-term average of 70,000, in order to stabilise the population under 30 million.
Mr Smith took issue with being characterised on The Drum as "anti-immigration", with panellists describing his anti-ABC advertising campaign as a "stunt", and with claims that he would donate $2 million to One Nation.
"All they have to do is give me one phone call," he said.
"Nobody says to them, 'Have a look at the ad first, look at his Fair Go Manifesto.' They come on with lie after lie. I've never had an anti-immigration ad, the ad was about perpetual growth. I have always been unbelievably pro-immigration - it's why our country is so fantastic - but at 70,000 per year, the long-term average."
He reiterated that the anti-ABC ads were not a stunt. "It was part of my continuing campaign that you need to have a discussion on population," he said. "I'm going down there at 4.30pm and going to ask to be on the show.
"They probably won't let me on because they have to hand-pick all of these people who basically just spruik growth for some reason. There is obviously some direction at the ABC that anyone who doubts growth must be racist."
And he described the suggestion that he would donate $2 million to One Nation as a "distortion". "No one has ever said to me, 'Would you give money to Pauline Hanson?'," he said.
"My plan is to run an advertising campaign in marginal seats to support whoever has a population policy, and I'm utterly convinced by [the next election] I will have one of the major parties with a population policy."
During the episode, panellists suggested Mr Smith's anti-ABC attack had forced the broadcaster to discuss his positions. "Maybe one of the reasons the ABC and indeed all the other media outlets have not covered this to date is because it's not a really well founded argument," Mr Kirkland said.
"If you look at migration, predominantly people who arrive here are better educated than the rest of us, their kids do better at school, they're generally of workforce age ... which delays the impact of an ageing population.
"So we're getting a lot out of migration at the moment. It's geared towards delivering what employers need, and that's what fuels the economy. It's been one of the most consistent forces driving economic growth in Australia decade upon decade."
Mr Kirkland said the real issue was infrastructure had not kept pace with immigration. "Cutting immigration won't do it, we just need to plan better for the impacts of immigration on demand for services," he said.
In a statement, an ABC spokeswoman said panellists were "invited on to talk about a variety of topics, their opinions are their own and we don't control what they say".
"The panellists last night ... expressed a range of views on Dick Smith and all topics, and Mr Smith's campaign on population was fully covered," she said.
"It was a graphic from the Nine Network that used the term 'anti-immigration'. The discussion around Mr Smith donating money to One Nation was based on Mr Smith's comments, which have been widely reported. The ABC did not distort Mr Smith's comments."
SMITH JOINS PARTY BUT RULES OUT RUN
It came as Mr Smith announced he had joined a political party for the first time in his life - but categorically ruled out running for office. "There is no chance I'm running," he said.
Sustainable Australia, which shares Mr Smith's views on cutting the migration intake, is hoping the high-profile support will get it over the 750-member line needed by next month to register a NSW state party in time for the March 2019 elections.
Party president and founder William Bourke, who pulled in 6.5 per cent of the vote when he ran for Joe Hockey's North Sydney seat at the 2015 by-election, said Sustainable Australia was on a "massive recruitment drive".
Sustainable Australia currently has more than 1000 members federally and about 375 in NSW. "We're really confident of making the 750, especially with Dick Smith," he said. "It's free to join at the moment, and memberships have already started rolling in the door this morning."
Mr Bourke, who believes the party can land multiple candidates into the NSW upper house, said Mr Smith had been a "friend of the party for several years".
"We'll be doing everything we can to convince Dick to run, but there's a whole lot of water to go under the bridge," he said. "We've got a whole range of high-profile candidates and many people that are approaching us now that Dick's formally on board."
While immigration is a federal issue, Mr Bourke said there were a number of ways state governments could "push back". "States do have significant input into the immigration issue," he said.
"State governments make agreements with the Immigration Department to set up international migration programs, so states can withdraw from those agreements. They can put pressure on the federal government to say, 'This is overloading our cities, suburbs and towns, overdevelopment is a problem and our environment is suffering.'"
Mr Bourke said while property development was an important industry, it was "dominating our economy and it shouldn't be". "We need to diversify the economy and invest excessive capital that's currently going into property into our factories, farms and small businesses," he said.
"The sooner you move away from an unsustainable property Ponzi the easier it will be to transition to a sustainable and prosperous economy."