Thursday, 18 June 2009

The Salvos Respond.

On 26 April I blogged about the involvement of Woolworths with The Salvation Army and how I felt that these donations from a company whose revenue includes the proceeds of gambling compromised the Salvo's principles. Click here to read my 26 April blog.
I've received two responses and set them out below:
"With regard to the two principle issues you raised therein, namely, the involvement of Mr Roger Corbett with The Salvation Army, and our support and endorsement of the Responsible Gambling Awareness Week in Victoria, I respond as follows.

I need to correct your statement that Mr Corbett, formerly CEO of Woolworths Limited, is “a leading member of The Salvation Army”. This is not the case. Mr Corbett is not a member of The Salvation Army. He is an enthusiastic supporter of The Salvation Army, and its mission, and he chairs The Salvation Army’s Advisory Board in our Eastern Territory. This distinction between being a formal member of The Salvation Army, that is, to be a soldier in our Army, is not a trivial one. Hence the requirements as contained in our Positional Statement regarding gambling, which you cite. We do require our soldiers (members) to abstain from gambling, as we do, for example, from drinking alcohol or using any form of harmful drugs, including tobacco.

We do not, however, require people who volunteer to assist The Salvation Army in any number of ways, to accept these same disciplines. As such, we do not require this of Mr Corbett in relation to his generous donation of time and knowledge and experience in his capacity as Chairman of our Advisory Board in Sydney.

Further, with regard to your questioning of the rightness of our accepting a Woolworths donation of $100,000 to assist our service through the Oasis Homeless Youth Centre in Sydney, in the context to the Carols in the Domain event, we stand by our long-term relationship with Woolworths in relationship to this event. We do not live, as you well know, in a perfect, ideal world. We engage with a great many individuals and corporations who wish to support the service and community work of The Salvation Army in so many areas.

We ultimately believe that in the vast majority of these relationships the end result of the partnership is the good of the community and individuals who so desperately need help. We do not believe we have the luxury of knocking back much-needed offers of help and assistance because we hold a different opinion about aspects of their lifestyle, personal or corporate.

I do add, however, that we only accept specific donations from gambling related industries, or for that matter, from government revenues drawn directly from gambling taxes, for the purposes of assisting our addiction based community services.

With regard to your criticisms of our involvement here in Victoria with the government facilitated Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, I need to say that we have been engaging for many years now with successive Victorian State Governments about the issues surrounding problem gambling. Our official position, as stated on many occasions to the State Government, is that Victoria would be a better state without pokie machines. In conjunction with the Inter-church Gambling Task Force, our shared position is to call for at least a 50% reduction in the number of pokie machines in this state.

That having been said, we live and serve the community in the world of real politics. As such, we have been working to minimise the serious harm done by addiction to pokie machines while machine numbers remain as they are. We believe that harm-minimisation is a valuable approach to take to problem gambling and are pleased with many of the outcomes produced in adopting this approach, including the passing of the State Government’s latest Bill through the Upper House, just last week. You will be aware that this Bill contains very significant foundation steps to progressively introduce pre-commitment technology and processes to all pokie machines in this State.

We are pleased that through the direct input to State Government policy of our views on a range of problem gambling matters, firstly through the work of Mr John Dalziel on the Responsible Gambling Ministerial Advisory Council and now in the past three years the service of Major Brad Halse on this same Council and various working groups attached to it, The Salvation Army’s voice on behalf of those whose lives have been dramatically impacted for the worse by pokie machines, is being clearly heard in Government.

You are correct, only in part, in citing one of the four aims of Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, as being “Gamble for the fun of it…”. What that aim says in totality is “Gamble for the fun of it, not the money or the win.” There is a big difference. I also point out the other three aims of this week of community education and public awareness: “Set a limit and don’t exceed it”; “Take just your allocated amount of money”; and “Don’t let gambling take over your life”.

Taken together, these four aims of Responsible Gambling Awareness Week are indicative of trying to raise awareness and educate the community about responsible gambling. They are about harm minimisation and in this regard we are happy to continue to support and endorse this particular week. It has not in the past prevented us from criticising Government policy re gambling regulation; it will not in the future.

Thank you for your interest in this issue. Inasmuch as we are both trying to minimise as far as possible the dreadful harms cause by gambling addiction, we are on the same side. We look forward to your support as we continue to work further to minimise the harms caused to individuals, families and the community.

May God bless you.

Sincerely,

James M. Knaggs
Commissioner
TERRITORIAL COMMANDER"
Here's the text of the email I received from Colonel James Condon, Chief Secretary of the Salvo's Australia Eastern Territory.
"Thank you for your letter to Commissioner Linda Bond regarding Mr Roger Corbett and Woolworths connection to The Salvation Army.

Firstly, let me thank you for all that you and your organisation do in this very important area of gambling and poker machine awareness.

Secondly, we note what you say in your letter and can assure you that we have had in depth discussions with Mr Roger Corbett regarding this matter.

There is another side to the whole story that Mr Corbett has shared with us. In the light of our discussions we believe that our association with Mr Corbett and Woolworths is not contrary in any way to our own positional statement."
I think the public should know the whole story that Mr Corbett has shared with The Salvation Army.

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