Gerry Harvey Rarely Lets The Facts Get In The Way Of A Good Whinge

Gerry Harvey Rarely Lets The Facts Get In The Way Of A Good Whinge

He’s at it again. Harvey Norman chairman Gerry Harvey has been complaining about how red tape makes it impossible for new businesses to get started. Like many complaints we hear from Gerry Harvey, this one is long on rhetoric and somewhat shorter on facts.

Picture: Getty Images

Harvey’s latest complaint, the SMH reports, is that a “100-foot-high” tower of red tape makes launching a new business too difficult. He claims that a business idea he had planned to launch this year was scuppered because of too much regulation. “I’m in favour of governments being there to govern in the areas that need governing not a whole heap of other things that they stick their sticky fingers into.”

He also told the paper that business people and society in general should not rely on government support, instead taking responsibility for themselves:

When I grew up there was a self-care thing, you had to learn by your mistakes you didn’t have everyone around the place looking after me and changing my nappy every time I peed myself, so you have to look after yourself, take responsibility for your actions and things like that.

This is a somewhat remarkable statement for Harvey to make, given that he frequently crusades for regulatory changes designed precisely to boost his own business. To use an analogy that seems very suitable for a racing enthusiast on Melbourne Cup day, Gerry Harvey has form in this area.

The one that will be most familiar to Lifehacker readers is Harvey’s frequent complaints that online traders have an unfair advantage because they aren’t subject to 10 per cent GST. The most cursory research into pricing shows that this is unfounded, since the price difference is demonstrably often much higher than 10 per cent in most cases. For electronics in particular, Harvey Norman very rarely works out as the cheapest option, either online or offline, and there’s no evidence that’s due solely to the GST.

Another example? Earlier this year, Harvey complained that wages in the hospitality sector (he has resort investments as well as his stake Harvey Norman) were too high. The difficulty here was that he claimed a maximum wage of $42 an hour, while the highest rate paid on the relevant award on a Sunday (the day Gerry Harvey complained about) was $34.49. In other words, he was complaining about paying a wage rate that didn’t actually exist, and demanding something be done about it.

Yesterday’s claim about red tape is hard to assess, because Harvey didn’t offer up any specific examples of what should be improved. Lesson #1 right there: if you want something fixed, you need to provide details.

However, the evidence doesn’t appear to suggest that Australia is particularly badly off here. A recent comparison by the World Bank ranked Australia as #4 in the world in terms of ease of starting a business, outranked by New Zealand, Canada and Singapore. So while there’s always room for improvement, it would be difficult to argue we’re a basket case in this area.

What Gerry Harvey says will almost always make news, but it needs to be reported in context, not treated as gospel merely because he said it. His success as a businessman gives him some authority in the area, but that doesn’t mean every last word is true.

One final thought? Harvey Norman sales are up 1.2 per cent, and have been growing for three quarters. That doesn’t suggest government regulation has destroyed the business. But history certainly suggests that Gerry Harvey will keep complaining about it.


  • And this is just another reason why I won’t shop in his stores, he cries and bleats about how tough the world is, yet he’s rolling in the cash. He’s a real life Mr Burns.

  • The problem new and small businesses have is marketing budget.

    There are great products and services out there that don’t get discussed in the media and from that never get the traction that they need.

    Starting a business, and developing a business are 2 very different things.

    In regards to Gerrys whinges – well he is whingeing about those things that he has personal experience in, and probably supported by countless staff and lawyers that have assisted him in becoming well educated in the subject.

    His success as a businessman gives him some authority in the area, but that doesn’t mean every last word is true.

    Who said or thinks that every last word he says is true?

    He’s just expressing his opinion.

    What Gerry Harvey says will almost always make news

    Well, if he wants it to. If the media want it to. The media could quite easily choose to focus on important topics but then why do that.

  • Even if he did have a valid point to make, he’s lost my ear. After hearing him gripe mercilessly about how tough retailers are doing it in competition against the online retailers, I had to roll my eyes. In the past 18 months I have gone to make large purchases at Harvey Norman stores and found the customer service to be absolutely abysmal.

    In one instance, I was looking to purchase a high-end fridge that I could have gotten much cheaper online, but that I figured was better to purchase from a store so I had a point of recourse if there were any issues. I spent half an hour wandering the store looking for someone to serve me. When I finally found someone, he told me he’d be with me in a minute and disappeared out the back. Five minutes later, I found someone else to serve me. She was disinterested and snappy, and had little patience when I asked questions about the product. As I was inspecting the fridge, she told me impatiently, “Look, I’ve got to go serve someone else. Why don’t you come get me when you make up your mind?”

    At that point, I decided to take my $2000 elsewhere. On the way out, the original guy who’d disappeared stopped me and asked if he could help. When I told him I was taking my money elsewhere as they didn’t seem interested in serving me, he said, “Well I feel your pain but it’s not our fault they don’t put enough staff on.”

    This, Mr Harvey, is why people shop online.

  • I read the SMH article and it was all fluff and hot air. Not once did Gerry say ‘For example’ or give any indication of what this “Red tape” is. Minimum wages? trading hours? goods restrictions? location restrictions? tax? Employee numbers?

    It seemed to be just a rant, like most, on how consumers money was looking up but the money wasn’t flowing in to his stores. If he actually believed in and got on to the internet, he’d find plenty of reason why consumers don’t spend in his stores. C’mon Gerry. If you have the fire poker of red tape of reason, show the public your actually smart and use the damm thing.

  • Back in the old days he wouldn’t have the balls to go on the news and complain about online stores selling games so cheap because of no GST. Back then even a mainstream TV reporter would have researched it and told him even with GST the games are $50 online so $55 with GST, his are $100 including GST. In this circumstance, the first question would be what red tape?

    Thank you Angus for asking questions and not just reporting Press Releases.

  • “You could go out and give a million dollars to a charity tomorrow to help the homeless. You could argue that it is just wasted. They are not putting anything back into the community.

    “It might be a callous way of putting it but what are they doing? You are helping a whole heap of no-hopers to survive for no good reason. They are just a drag on the whole community.

    “So did that million you gave them help? It helped to keep them alive but did it help our society? No.?”

    Mr Harvey can get stuffed.

  • The (commercial) media will always give this man a free soapbox from which to dispense his nuggets of insight and wisdom and generally demonstrating how far out of touch with the real world he really is… why ? Because they love his advertising dollars. Can’t say I blame them… if I ran a commercial media business then I’d be relying on HN ads as nice ongoing baseline revenue.

    Funniest thing I remember from when I was actually IN a HN shop a couple years ago buying something… a replacement radio for the office I think that I just needed to buy then and there that day to soothe the savage beasts… anyway… when I paid for the item they printed out an invoice on a dot-matrix printed on two-part interleaved invoice paper with tractor feeds along the side. I checked around to make sure I wasn’t suddenly back in 1983. Talk about out-of-touch with the modern world. GO HARVEY !!!

    • I would say they can’t upgrade them because their point of sale/inventory software is equally ancient. The software wouldn’t be able to recognise a regular printer.

  • I boycotted his stores 10 years ago because his shouty ads are enough to drive you round the bend, and haven’t shopped there since.

    If I burst into his living room every single day screaming at him at the top of my lungs to buy my stuff I don’t think he’d be any more receptive.

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