IT IS QUITE a few years since a copy of the Age was delivered on a daily basis to the Billabong, so it is no more than an assumption that Harvey Norman still buys the odd page of advertising space in Melbourne’s broadsheet. If the retailer does indeed continue to support that newspaper and its Silly sister, perhaps senior managers should find a moment to reflect on what they are getting for their money. They may think they are paying to reach a well-heeled demographic, people who will visit HN stores and spend big on furniture and wotnot, but the more obvious result of their advertising dollars would seem to be a deluge of slurs and abuse in the paper’s news columns. There is more of it today, with a story by Silly consumer affairs correspondent Alexandra Smith alleging a murderous assault on Boamabee State Forest koalas by timber-getters whose harvest of forest products eventually finds its way into HN showrooms:
"Harvey Norman claims its Naturally Australian flooring products are sourced from 'sustainable and renewable natural resources' when instead they are contributing to the destruction of Australia's native forests and destroying vital koala habitat,'' the group's report, to be released today, says.
Markets for Change calls on Harvey Norman to phase out selling products made from native forests … [and] to give their customers clear and accurate information about the source of their wood products."
The story doesn’t really stand up. The trees are being logged legally by a Boral subsidiary and processed at a Boral sawmill, with Harvey Norman’s involvement limited to re-selling the processed goods. If that logic holds, then the same eco activists who have caught reporterette Smith’s ear also should be up in arms about Global Mail benefactor and Greens mega-donor Graeme Wood, whose online travel agency encourages holidaymakers to burn the world’s petroleum reserves and torment polar bears.
But mention of hypocrisy is not the most curious omission from Smith’s story, which fails to mention Markets for Change’s campaign against Harvey Norman as one more example of the way in which the party of Rudd and Gillard has allowed green activists to shape its agenda and pervert the intent of the nation’s laws. The carbon tax is, of course, the classic case study, but little sops and green favours inserted here and then in legislation are just as much the product of the corruption that has characterised Canberra since late in 2007.
Briefly, in 2010 the Rudd-Gillard crew re-vamped the Trade Practices Act, which was re-christened the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and announced by Shirley Strachan impersonator Craig Emerson as a great tool for keeping wicked business interests on the straight and narrow. What Emerson did not mention at the time were the Act’s sanctions against organisers of boycotts – well most boycotts, anyway.
The notable exception, spelled out in Section 45DD – which, as far as is known, was not given that tag in honour of Emerson’s top-heavy former squeeze – permits boycotts if “the dominant purpose for which the conduct is engaged in is substantially related to environmental protection or consumer protection”.
And there you have it. A boycott that would be illegal for any other purpose can proceed without restraint because Labor licensed its green allies to harass companies and organisations they do not like. And the thing about the boycott’s organisers is that they do not like much of anything to do with commerce, which is perhaps to be expected from a crew led by a posse of World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and Australian Greens notables.
Oh, there is another curiosity about Smith’s story: there is little that is new about it. Markets for Change has been pumping out the anti-Harvey Norman propaganda for well over a year, re-cycling scares to keep its campaign in the headlines. There are, however, stories it might have been interesting to see explored – potential lines of inquiry noted in May last year by professional forester Mark Poynter at Online Opinion.
But that would require a little more effort than the simple act of re-writing without question a well-funded lobby group’s latest press release.