Harvey Norman's billionaire founder Gerry Harvey has defended pocketing $14.5million in JobKeeper wage subsidies despite posting a 116 percent profit increase.
The 81-year-old chairman's furniture and electrical retailer made a record $462million after-tax profit in the six months to December 31 as lockdowns made consumers more inclined to update their home furnishings.
That $248.4million increase - compared with the second half of 2019 before the pandemic - marked a 116.3 percent half-year net profit surge.
Despite its success in the face of lockdowns, Mr. Harvey defended pocketing $14.5million on JobKeeper wage subsidies, mainly in the first half of 2020, as Australia suffered its first recession in almost three decades.
'I'm sick of talking about JobKeeper because I've been on the phone talking about it all day,' he told Melbourne radio broadcaster, Tom Elliott.
'I don't want to go into it, it's like going down a rabbit hole talking about why and where.'
The retail king, who last year made The Australian Financial Review Rich List with a net worth of $2.6billion, argued the JobKeeper money went to wholesale operations and therefore was not propping up the successful retail side of the business.
'We took a view that the businesses that got that JobKeeper money desperately needed it and the ones that didn't get it didn't need it,' Mr. Harvey said.
'That went to areas of our business that were suffering at the time.
The 81-year-old chairman's furniture and electrical retailer made a record $462million after-tax profit in the six months to December 31. That $248.4million increase - compared with the second half of 2019 before the pandemic - marked a 116.3 percent half-year net profit surge. Pictured is a Harvey Norman store in Malaysia
'It's not as if it went to Harvey Norman regular shop, that didn't happen.'
Harvey Norman's annual report showed it received $7.6million from JobKeeper to help struggling franchisees.
The business was eligible for $22.3million in government wage subsidies.
Releasing its half-yearly results on Friday, the retailer also revealed it received $3.6million from taxpayers for its wholesale operations.
Shareholders were also the big winners with interim dividends climbing to 20 cents a share, up from 12 cents a share a year earlier, and investors don't have to pay tax on this under franking credit laws.