It took Matt Taibbi, a thirty-something writer for Rolling Stone magazine, to succinctly articulate the role played by Goldman Sachs, one of the corporate arch-villains behind the Global Financial Crisis. He commenced his 10,000 word missive in 2009 by proclaiming that the investment bank was “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”. The article reverberated around the world, triggering widespread debate about the manner in which Goldman Sachs abused its market power to engineer asset bubbles and bend laws. It may come as some surprise to discover that the Australian bogan has its very own vampire squid problem, in the form of a 71 year old former door-to-door salesman of vacuum cleaners.
The first store co-owned by Gerry Harvey opened in 1961, and, after various co-owners and buyouts, Harvey Norman emerged in 1982. Today, Harvey Norman operates over 160 franchised stores in six countries, and is one of Australia’s most powerful retailers. Gerry Harvey, Australia’s hungriest mouth and squeakiest wheel, can thank the bogan for his current 1.2 billion dollar station in life. So what has he done to transform this disorganised drove of self-interested donkeys into an obedient sleigh-pulling collective?
Firstly, he has told the impulsive and greedy bogan that it doesn’t have to be patient. One of the pioneers of interest-free consumer finance in Australia, Harvey Norman has partnered with Flexirent and GE Money so that Gerry can insert his blood funnel into bogan bucks that don’t even exist yet. This time travelling funnel extends up to 48 months into the future. Despite Gerry being on the record as saying that Flexirent is a bad idea for the average Australian, his company will promote this type of finance to all of its customers. As for GE Money, 1.5 million Australians have taken out $5 billion of interest-free GE finance via Harvey Norman since 2004 (an average of $3,300 per person), which currently reverts to interest rates of up to 29.49%, four times the mortgage rate about which bogans squeal so tremulously.
While the bogan’s attention span and values system limit it to only participating in one-off acts of charity that involve celebrities, Gerry Harvey has taken boganic benevolence to an entirely new, subterranean level. Asked in 2008 about the role that he and Harvey Norman played in the community, Gerry offered the following insight: “You could go out and give a million dollars to a charity tomorrow to help the homeless. You could argue that it is just wasted. They are not putting anything back into the community. It might be a callous way of putting it but what are they doing? You are helping a whole heap of no-hopers to survive for no good reason. They are just a drag on the whole community.” Indeed, it can be concluded that Gerry Harvey only values human life if it passes the credit checks to obtain 48 months interest-free finance.
But somehow, the bogan still loves Gerry Harvey. He has developed his pro-bogan image via regular appearances on bogan information-sources Today Tonight and A Current Affair, where he portrays himself as the heroic defender of the decent underdog. This is a triumph in public relations, with very few bogans realising that Gerry is shamelessly using television appearances to campaign for the maintenance and expansion of his own extortionate empire. One highly amusing example of this has been Gerry’s ongoing flame war with online electronics entrepreneur Ruslan Kogan, 43 years his junior. Gerry, who himself does not use a computer, spent years stubbornly refusing to participate in the Australian retailing landscape’s shift towards online, and routinely engages in angry scaremongering via the media to remind the bogan that P!nk will never tour again if bogans desert his highly profitable superstore retailing method.
More recently, he has been the most vocal opponent of the prevailing tax-free status of overseas online purchases of less than $1,000, which has seemingly progressed from indifference to “urgent” on Gerry’s lips in the space of a month. For decades, Harvey Norman enjoyed buying its stock on the cheap from Asia, but Gerry has concluded that it Costs Australian Jobs when anyone other than Gerry does it. The power of the interwebs threatened to enable bogans nationwide to bypass Gerry’s supply chain blood funnel, so he fired up his bogan-wrangling media machine in the hope of Gerrymandering Australia’s rules.
With the boss of Myer also currently sharing Gerry’s bluff about setting up an online retail function based in China as a protest to the tax laws, Gerry is hopeful that he can blackmail the ATO into legislating against the Australian consumer, and for Gerry Harvey. This is the Harvey modus operandi – whenever something is not to his personal liking, he bleats to the media and government until it changes, all the while reserving the right to change his once-vociferous position when it becomes convenient in the immediate term. In short, he’s the ultra-bogan.
More often than not, though, Gerry does not want change. As the kingpin of one of Australia’s most boganic businesses, he wants things to stay just as they are. This requires the bogan being forever ensnared in his franchised web of superstores, signing up for an interest free deal on a maxtreme 3D LCD LED HD HDMI WTF TV for a mere 30% more bogan bucks than it’s really worth. However, the bogan’s enwebment is not entirely to its displeasure, because the relationship between it and Gerry can be seen as symbiotic. In it, the bogan gets “free” consumer electronics and formal living area furniture, while Gerry the vampire squid gets the bogan’s soul. Forever.