Thursday, 25 June 2009

Coles' Pokies Part 3

If only Mark and Alison had acted upon my suggestion a potential tragedy might have been averted.
You may recall from my last blog that I asked Alison and Mark to consider erecting signs warning parents not to leave children in cars as erected in pokie pubs and clubs in Victoria. You may also recall that I received no substantive response.

Tragically a child was left in a parked car at the Coles' associated MiHi tavern in Ipswich, Queensland. I am so concerned about this apparent lack of responsibility, I emailed both the Brisbane Courier Mail, ABC Queensland, Nick Xenophon's office and others in more or less the following terms:
"I was saddened to read the story about the MiHi tavern in Ipswich where an infant was left locked in a car while the father gambled on the pokies inside.

http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,25619188-3102,00.html

The Courier's report fails to report that the venue's own staff assisted in any meaningful way.

The Mihi pub is associated with Coles. It is one of their pokie pubs where they encourage families with children inside this pokie venue through their web site www.KidsEatFree.com.au

http://www.ourhotels.com.au/mihitavern/Home.aspx

It is also the same pub where robbers used a taser gun to stage a fake robbery. One of the accused worked at the Mihi as a manager. These reports reflect poorly on Coles employee choices as well as this venue's suitability for families with children.

In December 2008, I met with senior people at Coles and their holding company Wesfarmers. Following up that meeting, I wrote to them about the absence of warnings in their car park areas about leaving children in parked cars. Here's exactly what I wrote on 15 December:

"Parking Rules - Some of your venues post rules warning parents not to leave their children in the car. Most do not. Here's a link to the Victorian Kidsafe resources web page. http://www.kidsafevic.com.au/index.php/Resources/Resources-Fact-Sheets Have a look at the pdf on Hot Cars and the sign on page 2 of the order form of current resources."

One of the two people I met with was based in Victoria where the placement of these signs in car parks and pokie room entrances is the rule. Her position was Licensing & Regulatory Manager. I believe she was the senior person involved with compliance.

While I have not been to the Mihi, it is possible that no such signs were ever erected. I have been to only one Coles pokie pub since December (Kenmore tavern) and did not see any such signs as I suggested. I received no substantive response to my email.

My suggestion involved little cost and may have prevented this incident.

My view is that this sad event at the Mihi Tavern demonstrates that Coles is not a responsible operator of pokie venues.
The track record indicates that it is unlikely that my warnings will make the news. It is important to me that I do everything I can to minimise the harm that pokies impose and this is something I can do. Reflecting this intent, I also emailed Alison and Mark:
"As I wrote to you earlier, I see no purpose in clandestine campaigns. Accordingly, set out below is my email to the Brisbane Courier Mail. A copy was provided to Nick Xenophon's office.
A similiar email was also sent to ABC Radio in Queensland.
My goal is not to seek publicity for myself, rather to do what I can to minimise public harm from operation of pokie gambling."
What really worries me about Coles is what I read in this Queensland Times report and the statement of Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Williams.
"Snr Sgt Williams said the 14-month-old was allegedly left alone in a car in the car park of the MiHi Creek Hotel (pictured) at Brassall while his father went in to play the poker machines.

CCTV footage showed the father arrived at 12.44pm and went straight into the bar.

“A woman arrived and parked next to the car and saw the child inside,” Snr Sgt Williams said.

“She went inside the hotel and tried to find the father but no one paid any attention to her so she rang the police.

“A pair of detectives from the CPIU was dispatched Code 2 and they arrived four minutes later.

“One of the detectives went inside the hotel and yelled out for the father while the female detective stayed outside and hailed down a passing motorist to get a wheel-lock to smash the window.

“They were just about to smash the window when the detective brought the dad out. The windows were fully closed and the doors were locked.

“The child was highly distressed, sweating profusely, had a high body temperature and was wearing a urine-soaked nappy.

“It's disgraceful. Even in the cooler months, the temperature inside cars can reach very high levels.”
What should be of deepest concern was that Coles own staff, despite having video of the pokie gambler did not assist the good samaritan with identification.

She had to call the police.

Not only is this disgraceful and irresponsible; it's dangerous.

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