Harvey Norman’s outspoken chairman, Gerry Harvey, has claimed many retailers will perish unless immediate action is taken to add GST onto Internet transactions of under $1000.
Speaking at a press conference surrounded by stocktake sales shoppers in Sydney’s CBD, Harvey said the GST imbalance would cost Australian jobs if not rectified as soon as possible.
He also rejected calls from Australian Retailer Association executive director, Russell Zimmerman, to wait for a report from the Productivity Commission into the issue before taking action.
“There are a lot of retailers that are going to go broke between now and the next three months,” Harvey said. “This has been taken to the Productivity Commission, which will take nine months to look at it and then make a recommendation to the Government.
“We can’t wait that long. For the case of a lot of retailers this is a matter of life or death.”
The Harvey Norman boss claimed public debate had shifted towards online vs. traditional retail markets and said his group’s argument was purely about imported online goods not being taxed at the same rates.
“This should be squarely about Australian retailers versus overseas retailers,” he said. “I understand it’s cheaper [to buy goods from overseas online] but it’s not fair.”
The Australian Greens announced today it would support reducing the threshold for GST-free online transactions from $1000 to $100, but Harvey also rejected the proposal as being unfair.
“The rules for one should be the rules for all…if you want to buy a packet of chewing gum and it attracts GST for the guy onshore, it should attract it for the guy offshore,” he said.
But despite the negative talk, a David Jones spokesperson at the press event said the department store’s sales were pleasing and positive while Harvey said sales had been “okay”.