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Kogan Comes to Harvey's Defence

Kogan Comes to Harvey's Defence

Posted: 05 Jul 2011

For those who haven’t seen it, two activist groups have recently launched a campaign levelled at Gerry Harvey and Harvey Norman for supposedly “fuelling the destruction of our native forests”.

Now, as you may know, we think that Mr Harvey has many failings. But, there is no doubt he has also contributed a huge amount to the growth of the retail sector in Australia over the past few decades and is rightly regarded as the doyen of Australian retail, having provided many jobs to hard working Aussies, and invented a retail franchise model which was very innovative in its time.

We have had our disagreements with Mr Harvey on the future of retail, and specifically the benefits of online. However, the latest attack against Mr Harvey is clearly nothing more than a desperate attempt by these groups to capitalise on a perceived public distrust or dislike of the man by grossly misrepresenting the truth.

In the report published by the activist groups, the primary accusation levelled at Mr Harvey is that Harvey Norman purchases wood from timber companies who, guess what, “with permission from state government agencies such as Forestry Tasmania, VicForests, West Australia’s Forests Products Commission and Forests NSW, fell the trees and convert them to sawn timber”. In other words, the report alleges that Harvey Norman complies with the laws and regulations established by government agencies. Hardly newsworthy stuff!

These agencies are set up with the prime purpose of protecting native forests, and they do their job very well. The relationship between the timber industry and Australia’s native forests is a very important issue, but who are we to trust - independent agencies who exist purely to protect native forests (who have no objection to what Harvey Norman is doing), or upstart activist groups chasing headlines?
Like him or hate him, Gerry Harvey is not a criminal – he should not be singled out for some supposed moral crime simply because he has complied with the law, and has sought Australian timber to use in his furniture. If anything, the use of Australian timber likely keeps more Australians in jobs, and puts bread on the table for many families.
There ought to be an informed debate about the merits of logging in certain areas within Australia. The activist groups should be heard, as should the timber industry and all the workers who depend on it for a living. But, this attempt by the activist groups to single out Gerry Harvey should be exposed exactly for what it is, an unabashed attempt to profit from the diminishing public perception of a distinguished former giant of industry. We’ve gone to battle with Mr Harvey before, and trust us, we know when he deserves to be grilled, and when he’s just a victim of gross misrepresentations of the truth.

If Harvey is really doing something wrong, then surely Harvey Norman is just the tip of the iceberg, and a large part of the furniture industry  (and paper and other wood-based industries) are susceptible to similar attacks - especially the ones touting the words “Australian Made”, or "Made from Australian Wood", which used to be seen a badge of honour.
What do you think? Has Harvey Norman done something wrong? Did they deserve to be attacked by these activists, or are they complying with the law and their moral obligations?


Ruslan Kogan

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