When Gerry Harvey gave an interview to 60 Minutes in March last year, he asked, “Why are we so scared about getting this virus? It’s pretty much nothing to get scared of.”
Instead, he saw it as an opportunity.
“Our sales are up … by 9 per cent on last year. Our sales in freezers are up 300 per cent. And what about air purifiers? Up 100 per cent!” Gerry boasted.
Predictably, there was a stinging public backlash. People were dying.
“It’s no revelation that Gerry Harvey is a selfish loudmouth whose constant acting out is likely a manifestation of dementia. Even still, the veteran retailer’s 60 Minutes interview on Sunday was genuinely breathtaking,” wrote Joe Aston in the AFR.
A few days later, with the country in lockdown and a social media campaign to boycott his stores, Gerry was backpedalling.
“Now, everyone thinks I’m this callous old bastard out making a profit on other people’s misery … but believe me, that was not my intention. I was trying to give a positive view.”
As it turns out, Gerry was right, both on the opportunity presented and on his self-assessment of making a profit from misery.
A couple of weeks ago, the Daily Telegraph included a magazine called the Sydney Power 100, and there at number 7 were Gerry Harvey and his wife, Katie Page.
As editor Ben English explained, coronavirus was “the great power shift of 2020.”
“Those who adapted, who recognized the opportunity in the great crisis, bolstered their power and not only survived, but thrived.”
According to the Telegraph, “Harvey Norman profits jumped by 160% in the first four months of 2020 and the boom continues.”
Which makes me wonder how they qualified for the JobKeeper payment which, for companies with over a billion in turnover, had to show a decline of 50% to be eligible.
In February, Harvey Norman reported that first-half sales climbed 25% and contributed to a net profit after tax of $462.03m for the last six months of 2020 – up 116% on the same time period in the previous year.
The retailer said it would pay dividends totalling $249m, of which Gerry Harvey is set to receive $78m due to his 31.4% shareholding in the company.
Despite this, they declined to pay back the estimated $22 million they somehow collected for JobKeeper, a payment they should never have qualified to receive.
But that’s all fine and dandy with the Treasurer apparently who won’t be asking for the money back from any of the companies who claimed the payment despite making higher profits.
As Secretary of the ACTU Sally McManus pointed out, “They have no qualms about requesting and forcing people to pay back Centrelink payments – no problem with that whatsoever. Somehow we’re all supposed to sit back and say ‘oh well that’s OK, that’s just the rules that apply to big business in this country’.”
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