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Harvey Norman Will Welcome Syrian Refugees

Gerry Harvey says Harvey Norman's willingness to offer work to some of the 12,000 Syrian refugees heading to Australia isn't just the right thing to do; it's also good business.

He says some of the homeware retailer's best performing domestic franchisees are people who had arrived as boat people 25 years ago, while Chinese migrants had excelled since joining the retailer's Singapore operations.

The federal government has approached major companies including Harvey Norman as it seeks ways to ensure those refugees it has agreed to rehome don't become dependent on long-term state aid.

"We can look at employing them in various parts of our business, whether that's in the warehouse, clerical work, or - if they speak English - on the shop floor," the billionaire businessman told shareholders at Harvey Norman's Tuesday's meeting.

"We've got no favourites. Everybody, be they female, whatever your religion, whatever your nationality, you're an individual and if you perform well we want you; and if you don't, we don't."

Mr Harvey said that the success in Singapore, one of the eight countries in which Harvey Norman operates, showed that workers from overseas could shine if given a chance.

He said Chinese workers initially struggled after Singapore's government allowed them to be employed, but that they responded well once they had been given the right training.

"They came back in again and, lo and behold, they became our best sales people in Singapore. They're still there," he said.

"They're hungry and they want to make money and they want to send it back to China."

Never short of a quip, Mr Harvey said the presence of executive director David Ackery on Harvey Norman's board was testament to Australia's relationship with Syria.

"His grandfather was a Syrian. So we've been bringing Syrians in for a long, long time," he said.

AAP

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