While Australian retail giant Harvey Norman is one of the leading voices calling for lowering of the general sales tax on items purchased overseas, the company's own chief executive, who is also the owner's wife, ironically buys from online shops abroad to save money.
Gerry Harvey, owner of Harvey Norman, admitted the cybershopping activities of Chief Executive Katie Page and half of his family in the past year.
"They do it because it's a lot cheaper. I can't tell my own family 'Don't do that, it's bad for the country. They know how I feel but they save money on things like dresses. In the meantime someone's losing their job," Adelaide Now quoted Mr Harvey.
His admission came a day after Ms Page said in a Melbourne conference that the retail giant would not move overseas which she described as the worst thing an Aussie company could do.
However, she also pushed in the conference to lower the $1,000 threshold for GST-exempt purchases from online shops overseas where Australian cybershoppers are ordering from to buy lower-priced items.
Ms Page clarified in the conference that she rarely orders online, but acknowledged "everyone is doing it" including her children.
"If I was after something that I couldn't get here, and I really need it, sure I would. Certainly our daughter does, and our son with music - if my 19-year-old wants to buy a $50 dress online there's nothing I can do about it," Ms Page said.
Mr Harvey also warned of the risk that smugglers could take advantage of the boom in online purchases to sneak in drugs to Australia. However, a confidential Customs report warned the Treasury that if the agency would be required to check the GST status of parcels, it would divert their focus on border screening on illegal imports.
Since 2010-11, the Customs have detected almost 15,000 cargo and mail items with drugs.
Consumer group Choice criticised the push by Harvey Norman for a lower GST threshold as absurd since retail from overseas online stores accounted for only 2 per cent of total retail sales.
"The unhealthy obsession of some retail groups over the GST is what's seeing them lose ground. Some retailers still need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century," The Herald Sun quoted Matt Levey, Choice head of campaigns.
A report by The Australian quoted Ms Page who said that Harvey Norman opened a Web site in 2011 that shipped games to Australian consumers direct from Europe without paying GST to test if the tax office would object to the practice.
"It was so easy to do, but it's not the right thing to do by Australia," Ms Page said.
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