More industry feedback on Gerry Harvey’s online tax plan

Compiled by Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY, NSW: After last week’s comments from Harvey Norman chairman Gerry Harvey concerning the taxation, or lack thereof, on overseas purchasing, has received a record amount of feedback from our valued readers. Here today are more edited comments from readers.

“For the last three years, we have been lobbying governments to make internet trading a level playing field. At times, PMA and PICA have felt lonely voices in the crowd. Through this time, we stuck with our policy of not moving the matter into the public. The best value opinion, in spite of careless comments from some self-appointed industry pundits, was that shifting the matter into the public arena would have caused us more harm than good. However, the strength of the Aussie Dollar has been a game changer and the general media is now fully aware of the issue and giving it a strong run. And this is proving a good thing. At last we are harnessing all the combined power of the voices of Harvey Norman, NARTA and other key players. We are now reaching a critical mass where we even have Bill Shorten responding to the issue in media interviews. But we must be careful in our comments to avoid antagonising governments and consumer groups and try to deliver a united voice on just what needs to be done. So rather than having varying claims being about how much lower the threshold should be, we need to unite in a strategic message to  show that the Board of Taxation review was not thorough enough, that the decision was flawed, and that some key issues were not considered” — Paul Curtis, executive director, Photo Imaging Council of Australia (PICA).

“Having worked on both sides in the electrical industry (retail and wholesale), the end consumer is not aware of factory-to-importers pricing. When a country has a demand for say a TV, we use a different system, voltage, include warranty et cetera, to that in North Amercia. Our population is only 21 million vs North America at 456 million. Australian importers are given a price by factories and it’s take it or leave it. But when the North American countries come to negotiate, they have volume to bargain with, we don’t. You will see models in their markets that we don’t get a look at, products released there months before we get them, and so on. I would prefer to pay more here and keep our kids employed in the future than see it all come crashing down. Look at the clothing industry, nothing is made here and we see all these articles on child labour to keep costs down. I agree with a 10 per cent GST on all items imported to keep my kids in a job in Australia and not having to go overseas to find work” — Supplier.

“There is something that I don’t understand: I currently run a retail store — when the Australian Dollar hit US 65 cents, I received at least 5 five emails a day letting me know of price rises due to the drop of the Australian Dollar. I haven’t received one email about prices going down when the dollar has been at 97 cents for a while. Retailers are being blamed for high prices but distributors are not coming to the party” — Retailer. (At the time of posting, the Australian Dollar was valued at US$0.96.)

“I agree with Gerry Harvey's idea on taxing online imports because they add no value to our economy. I pay wages to my staff and they pay taxes; I make profits or losses and I pay taxes. Bricks and mortar retailers provide a show room for people to see and buy, not just to show products so they can buy online. Overheads are one of the most expensive costs of retail — that cost is not considered by consumers: apparently they just happen” — Retailer.

“I don’t always agree with Gerry Harvey but he does have a valid point. It is getting much harder for bricks and mortar retailers. Some of this has been self inflicted particularly by mass marketing, box moving retailers who continue to push the lower quality, cheaper items at the lowest price. This has lowered consumers’ expectations, and companies have been vying to produce a ‘cheaper’ version often at vastly reduced quality. Further discount wars and a glut of Chinese items make it even harder, and often the media (read: TV current affairs shows) compound the problem by continually saying ‘don’t pay full price’ or ‘we’ll find the cheapest for you’. Everyone likes a bargain but most of us prefer value. Fortunately there are some consumers who still appreciate service and advice. By avoiding any taxes, it is far from an even playing field and retailers cannot compete fairly” — Retailer.

These comments have been edited to improve readability.

If you would like to add your thoughts to the debate, please send me an email.

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