Harvey Norman boss Gerry Harvey has slammed Amazon as a "parasite" that "contributes virtually nothing to society", saying Australia should enact a Donald Trump-style ban on the e-commerce giant.
Speaking to news.com.au after reporting the company's best ever half-year profit, Harvey said Amazon was "not a good corporate citizen" and if Australia had a choice, it should stop the retailer coming in, "like Donald Trump not letting the Muslims in".
"They're parasites, they just want to pay everyone minimum wages," he said. "If you had a choice you'd say don't let them in."
Harvey warned consumers that predatory pricing was "part of Amazon's long-term plan" to control the market.
"It's so obvious. They come in and because of their power in the marketplace they can sell things as loss-leaders to make no money and send everyone broke, then put up the price."
Harvey had previously said his company would beat Amazon with superior service and price-matching, but on Tuesday he appeared to back away from parts of the pledge, saying only that items would be "about the same" price.
But he warned Amazon would fall foul of Australian laws against predatory pricing if it attempted to cut its prices too steeply. "The situation is, they can't go out there and sell products as loss-leaders, that's against the law," he said.
The retail boss, who has been a long-time critic of overseas retailers who sell in Australia but pay no tax, said he believed Amazon had a long way to go to solving its distribution problem.
"They have to have distribution centres throughout Australia. They're used to working in big cities where it's much easier to distribute than it is here," he said.
"If they have a warehousing area in Sydney, if someone buys a fridge and wants it in Dubbo, how do they get it there? They might have thought it's 10 bucks cheaper on Amazon, but it'll cost me 500 bucks more at this stage [to transport it].
"Meanwhile there's a Harvey Norman up the road and it costs about the same. I don't see how they're going to solve the distribution problem, and they certainly can't go out there and use electrical as a loss-leader.
"They pay virtually no company tax [globally] and make virtually no profit in relation to their turnover. They're not good corporate citizens, they send lots of people broke, they contribute virtually nothing to society. They're not someone that we'd want around the place."
Earlier, the furniture and electrical goods retailer reported a record half-year profit of $257.29 million for the six months to December 31, an increase of 38.7 per cent on the prior corresponding period.
Franchisee sales increased 5.2 per cent to $2.86 billion, while sales at company-owned stores increased 7 per cent to $976.28 million.
Harvey Norman's property segment produced a profit of $146.68 million, up 91 per cent, and the retailer has declared a fully franked interim dividend of 14 cents a share, up one cent.
The company said the result was underpinned by continued "robust" housing sector activity and enthusiasm for "Internet of Things" connected devices. Harvey said there had been "very strong growth" in sales of air conditioners for obvious reasons, but sales growth had been strong across the board.
Harvey said he was not concerned about a property market correction any time soon.
"The banks have tightened up, they're not lending money like they were and are making it difficult for these developments to get off the ground," he said.
"The developers are saying they're not getting the same number of people coming through to look at units, but the people that do are buying, so they're still getting sales.
"Prices are still going up and properties are still being sold. Talk of a property bubble at the moment is premature because the demand is still extremely strong."
Asked for his advice for struggling first-home buyers, Harvey said technology could ease the burden by allowing employers to work remotely from more affordable regional centres.
"It's pretty difficult if you're out there trying to get into the housing market in capital cities at the moment, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, but if you don't want that you can go to the other capitals, or Dubbo or somewhere where it's not as expensive," he said. "It just depends on what you do for a living.
"Because of technology advances it does allow people now to more easily work from home. You can have situations where somebody might come to work two days a week rather than five, [but] you've got a long way to travel those two days."
Harvey said young people should "look at what's available on bus and train routes". "You can buy a unit for $300,000, $400,000, $500,000, then after a period of time if you've got enough income maybe look at a house," he said.
"You can buy a house for $500,000, $600,000, $700,000, but still a long way from the centre of Sydney.
"But buying a house 50 years ago wasn't easy, either. I remember as a 15-year-old kid, the people next door, their daughter had just gotten married and we were talking about how lucky they were because their parents gave them a deposit for a house.
"Admittedly they're a bloody sight dearer now, but incomes are higher as well."