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Originally published 26Nov2011


Woolworths pokies pofiteering

November 2011

Greetings Mullumactioneers ...

In case anyone out there didn"t already receive the GET UP campaign info re: Woolworths and their pokies profits (sorry this is too late for Woolworths AGM last Thursday – I have been offline) nevertheless it"s not too late to update our own knowledge of seamy profiteering by the fresh food people.

From GET UP:

Grocery giant Woolworths is the surprise owner of the largest number of dangerous high-loss gambling machine venues in Australia – enabling a social ill that ruins families and destroys lives. You're getting this email because you've already signed our pokies reform petition, but can you let us know if you"re a Woolworths" shareholder, customer or employee before we present the petition to the Woolworths AGM this Thursday?

Australia is home to the largest number of dangerous high-loss pokie machines in the world – and grocery giant Woolies is the king of the hill: the largest pokie machine venue owner in the country, with more pokie machines than the top five Las Vegas casinos combined![1]

Why? Pure dollars: owning hotels with pokie machines is reportedly three times more profitable than selling groceries. No one would know this better than Australia's trusted household brand, which now has more than 12,000 computerised gambling machines in around 300 hotels across the country.[2]

These machines have been called the "crack cocaine" of gambling. Players are estimated to lose hundreds of millions of dollars annually.[3] They"re designed to be highly addictive, especially to those already prone to problem gambling, making them uniquely profitable to big corporations and destructive to the lives of thousands of Australian families. Plenty of Woolworths customers – and shareholders – are not happy that the ‘Fresh Food People" are heavily profiting from an industry that"s taking the food off so many family tables. Together, we"re taking our voices to the top by presenting your petition directly to senior executives at this Thursday's Woolworths AGM.

Imagine the look on the faces of these back room executives when we tell them directly how many shareholders, employees and customers of Woolworths want them to better serve their customers by coming out in support of pokie reform. We won't reveal your name to Woolworths but the total number will be powerful. Can you let us know if you are a Wooloworths customer, employee or shareholder?

It"s alarming enough that a trusted family brand has out-invested the top five Las Vegas casinos in pokie machines – but they"ve also made it clear that they don't think that their many customers who have been devastated by the impacts of problem gambling are their problem. Earlier this year the head of Woolworths' gambling subsidiary spoke in front of a parliamentary inquiry and shamelessly compared gambling addiction to hamburgers by saying: ''I think the product is safe. Some people have addictions, be it to fast food or drugs
3;are we asking, is a hamburger safe?" [4] Woolworths representatives sit on the executive board of the Australian Hotels Association, who are jointly responsible with Clubs Australia for the so called '$20 million' mass advertising campaign against pokies reform.[5]

Woolworths may have the dollars, but with more than 585,000 of us across the country – many of whom are Woolies' shareholders, employees and customers – we can change the direction of the company. Some concerned individuals have already volunteered to allow GetUp to send "proxies" on their behalf to the AGM – spokespeople who will represent them, and speak directly about their personal experience of the devastating effects of problem pokie gambling (and present your petition). It's a rare opportunity to take our message directly to the top and have it delivered, not by an outside group of activists, but through the company's own concerned shareholders. Add your voice now: let us know if you"re a Woolworths shareholder, employee or customer and be part of the message to company executives on Thursday.

An Annual General Meeting is the one chance we get each year to bypass the usual spin doctors and media gate holders and speak directly to the company chair and senior executives, publicly, and on the record.

The truth is, Woolworths can more than afford to curb problem gambling and still profit handsomely from recreational pokie players, alongside all their other business. We frankly expect better of a trusted Australian family brand than to fund a massive and misleading ad campaign against pokie reform. We've already got a 45,000 strong petition of Australians supporting reform to limit problem gambling, and now we will tell Woolworths just how many of their customers, shareholders and employees have signed it.

Thank you for all that you do,
Erin, for the GetUp team

[1]"Woolworths hits the jackpot with pokies after signing deal with Laundy hotel group", Daily Telegraph. November 11, 2011
[2]"Woolworths in pokie grip talks", Sydney Morning Herald. April 18, 2011
[3]"Woolies is poker machine king", Daily Telegraph. November 12, 2011
[4]"Playing pokies just like eating a burger, says Woolies subsidiary", Sydney Morning Herald. February 15, 2011
[5]"Woolworths revealed to own more pokies than the Adelaide Casino", April 16, 2011

And some other Wws news earlier this month ...

Woolworths to double shelf-space for their own range
Farmers fearful of discount home brands future: The Australian, 4 Nov 2011

FARMERS' fears are growing that increased pressure from the dominant Coles and Woolworths supermarkets may force prices for farm produce dramatically down.
The mounting unrest follows Wednesday's announcement by Woolworths that it will double the amount of shelf space devoted to its own discount home-brand range, effectively limiting retail opportunities for smaller food manufacturers and producers.
Coles and Woolworths control more than 80 per cent of the food and grocery retail market.
"That's a real concern to us," National Farmers Federation president Jock Laurie said, "because when they change the brands they sell in favour of their discount home brands, it devalues the whole food market."
Mr Laurie said lower-quality food imports were threatening to swamp home-grown produce.
However, a Senate inquiry on the discount milk price war has handed a win to the supermarkets, concluding that the war Coles began in January had been good for consumers and not so bad for farmers. Coles said it was pleased the benefits for consumers were now being recognised.
Some members of the Senate inquiry dissented from the report, with independent senator Nick Xenophon saying it proved consumer protection laws did not give farmers enough protection.
"If what Coles and Woolies have done to the dairy industry isn't illegal, it should be," he said.
Jan Davis, the chief executive of the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, said she was appalled by the Senate report findings and Woolworths' move.
"The whole intention of this Woolies' strategy is to force domestic producers like so many Tasmanian high-quality products off the shelves so it can substitute its own home-brand products and imported goods," she said.
Tamar Valley Dairy boss Jose Matteo said that much of the growth of his small family company had been possible because of contracts with the two supermarket giants for his niche product line. "Of course, it is always possible that Coles or Woolworths may decide to copy one of our products . . . but in the end it comes down to our relationship with them," he said.

On a lighter note check out
Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs "Wolly Bully"

Our man in Maleny asks:
" Is Sam the Sham related to Simon Sheik the GetUp boss?"


PS If you"re at the Mullum Music Festival, watch out for Debby Dryad collecting money for planting local native rainforest trees near Mullum Community Gardens. Oh, and check our website for a vid of the
Community Gardens Local Food Festival

PPS On a sad note, vale "The Silver Thread" Mullum"s delightful haberdashery shop, an iconic feature of our High Street.... unable to compete with the cheap Chinese imports. Oh dear, a loss indeed.

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