This is what The Salvation Army says in its main positional statement on gambling:

“Gambling is seeking gain at the expense of others, solely on the basis of chance. The Salvation Army is acutely aware of the suffering and deprivation experienced by many people as the result of this practice. Our social welfare experience, indicates that many of those who gamble tend to disregard their primary responsibilities, and not infrequently bring embarrassment and hurt to those dependent on them. The inherent evil in gambling tends to make the financial arrangements of a person or a community dependent on chance rather than upon a reward for labour. Since gambling is motivated by selfishness, it runs counter to the Christian expression of love, respect and concern for others. Often it begins in an apparently harmless way, but its continued practice may lead to dependency that undermines the personality and character of the gambler. Official sanction and public acceptance of this practice is, in the opinion of The Salvation Army, contrary to the Christian principles to which we subscribe. The Salvation Army requires its soldiers to abstain from gambling. It follows therefore that The Salvation Army does not find it acceptable for a soldier to have a proprietary interest in the gambling industry.”

You can’t get much clearer than that, yet the CV that Fairfax Media chairman Roger Corbett has included in the notice of meeting for tomorrow’s AGM in Sydney includes the statement: “Chairman of the Salvation Army Advisory Board”.

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Why on earth do the anti-gambling Salvos have an association with the man whose record as Woolies CEO included turning the retailing giant into Australia’s biggest pokies empire with almost 12,000 machines across the country?

Anti-pokies campaigner Paul Bendat, who featured prominently in this 10-minute story about the pokies on The 7.30 Report last Wednesday, wrote to the Salvos six months ago calling on them to ditch Corbett given his gambling record at Woolies.

An email came back: “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.”

At the end of the day it comes down to character. Corbett’s Christian values didn’t appear to count for much when the opportunity presented for Woolies to team with Alan Bond’s former business partner, Bruce Mathieson, and leap into the pokies business.

Given Corbett owns almost $10 million worth of Woolies shares and was also paid close to $20 million in cash while CEO, it is remarkable that after seven years and almost $1 million in fees from Fairfax shareholders, he still doesn’t even own 100,000 shares in the company. That’ll be my other general question from the floor tomorrow.

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