A campaign without a leg to stand on
Gerry Harvey spends a whole stack of money on advertising.
I note this as a disclaimer for the article which follows, which is not intended as a sop to a bloke with deep pockets who helps keep our business afloat. Indeed given the serious trouble I have had as an editor over the years with sooky chief executives at our gouging banks cancelling advertising in protest at editorial content, it’s a novel thrill to write something which an advertiser might enjoy.
Gerry Harvey has become something of a hate figure in Australia today. I’m kind of puzzled as to why. He has probably left himself open to attacks because, unlike other chief executives who prefer to fly under the radar, Harvey speaks his mind and is always prepared to front up for a fight. Apart from having committed the apparent sin of working hard and making lots of money, Harvey is disliked for two reasons.
In our hyper-materialistic society, where we want everything immediately at the cheapest possible price, Harvey is disliked because he has had the temerity to question the explosion in tax-free online shopping which has sent hundreds of local retailers to the wall. It’s almost been an act of impertinence on his part, where this grumpy old spoil-sport has taken the fun out of clicking away like a crazed idiot at a Boxing Day sale on the retail website of our choice, by urging us to consider the implications of our actions on local jobs and local businesses, both big and small.
As the face of a mega-big business it’s easy to see why so many people would just presume that someone such as Harvey is motivated by pure greed. His comments are actually truer of small business than big business. A company with the spread of Harvey Norman is better placed to absorb international competition than a small business which employs a couple of people.
One of the latest stories I read about the retail firm is that it plans to expand into Malaysia to help offset the pressures it is facing in Australia, which have seen its share price fall from around $7 a few years ago to less than $2 today. I know a couple of people who run, or ran, small bookstores and record shops, and none of them have had the luxury of heading overseas or diversifying to keep their little business flush with cash. They are the people who more than anyone are affected by the Amazons of this world. They would be in furious agreement with the comments by Gerry Harvey about the fact that the GST exemption for all online goods worth less than $1000 is essentially the death-knell for local retail.
The second reason Gerry Harvey is disliked is because he’s apparently complicit in the destruction of planet earth. Harvey is the subject of a highly personalised attack by the left-wing activist group Get Up and the environmental organisation Market for Change, which has decided to make some groovy little YouTube ads ripping off the “Go Harvey Go” commercials over the retailer’s promotion of Australian-made furniture.
There have been a lot of dumb campaigns launched over the years but this one is hands down the stupidest thing I have ever seen. Indeed if our closest primates, the orangutans, were able to talk, they would probably be shaking their heads in disbelief at the actions of Get Up in launching this juvenile and ludicrous assault on the only retailer which is discouraging the purchase of foreign-made furniture made with rainforest timber in countries which pay their workers bugger all and couldn’t give a damn about the environment.
Anyone who reads the Sunday papers would have seen those inserted Harvey Norman magazines which are wholly devoted to the promotion of Australian-made furniture. As far as I can tell, they are the only retailers who produce such an insert. While it is obviously driven by a desire to sell products and make money, it is also a noble gesture on behalf of the local furniture manufacturers who employ about 60,000 workers across the nation.
Get Up disagrees. It is urging a boycott of Harvey Norman, claiming the retailer stocks furniture made with timber from native Australian forests which contributes to global warming, and also endangers the habitats of koalas and eagles. Their claims are based on a total misrepresentation as to the amount of native forest which is being used to produce Aussie furniture, and a total misrepresentation as to the availability of plantation timber.
As The Australian reported this week, only around 6 per cent of Australia’s native forests are open to logging, not the 70-odd per cent as has been fictitiously claimed by the rattier environmentalists. Also there is simply not enough plantation timber to replace the wood which is taken from native forests. If the industry was forced to just use plantation wood, we’d have nothing to sit on.
Industry Minister Kim Carr has written to GetUp pointing out that their campaign is not only wrong, but will do nothing other than encourage Australian consumers – not that they need any encouragement – to buy cheaper stuff which is made in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia where scant regard has been paid to the environment, let alone the dignity and wellbeing of the workers who produce the stuff.
The average displaced Sumatran orangutan could understand this. The point is lost on the greenies at Markets for Change and the lefties at Get Up, who may well have run out of serious things to agitate about, and have embraced this non-cause out of boredom. In the meantime I’d urge everyone to get along to Harvey Norman and buy a locally made table. Go Harvey Go.
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