Issue 1051

News

LONELY PLANET REMOVES WICKED CAMPERS FROM TRAVEL GUIDE Wicked Campers are known for their campervans emblazoned with sexist and demeaning slogans. Many complaints against Wicked Campers to the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) have been upheld, but Australia’s system of industry self-regulation means there is no enforcement of the ASB’s ruling, and Wicked Campers have no obligation to remove the advertising.
April 28 is International Workers’ Memorial Day, an international day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work. It is an opportunity to highlight the preventable nature of most workplace incidents and ill health and to promote campaigns and union organisation in the fight for improvements in workplace safety. The slogan for the day is Remember the dead — Fight for the living.
From Darwin to Hobart, Sydney to Perth and all points in between, thousands of people marched in rallies across Australia on May 1 to stop the Western Australian government closing 150 remote Aboriginal communities. Rallies were also held overseas in the US, Germany, New Zealand, China, Canada and Britain. This is the second international day of action. Previous rallies were held around Australia on April 10.
ADELAIDE Come to Voices of Dissent on Thursday May 14 at 7pm. A Fundraiser for Green Left Weekly. Featuring The Tangled Bank; Kyle Landman, The Young Offenders; Steve O’Malley; Where Was I?; Brendan de Paor. Entry $7. The Jade Monkey, 160 Flinders St, Adelaide. Ph Claudia 0435 108 439. BRISBANE
Proceedings in the Queensland Land and Environment Court concerning the objection by conservation group Land Services of Coast and Country (LSCC) to the Adani Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin are drawing to a close. LSCC’s objection to the mine is based on the claim that it poses an unacceptable danger to climate change, groundwater, the Great Barrier Reef and the endangered black-throated finch.
Residents of Bentley, near Lismore in the NSW Northern Rivers district, have vowed to continue their fight against coal seam gas (CSG) mining following the Supreme Court’s “technical” decision to overturn the government’s suspension of Metgasco’s gas drilling licence.
Activists, students and academic staff met at the University of Sydney on April 29 to discuss the university’s recent attacks on those involved in a protest against a lecture given by an Israeli colonel on March 11.

Analysis

A Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance last week revealed that BHP Billiton was funnelling profits from Australian minerals through a marketing arm based in Singapore as a way of dodging tax in Australia. From 2006 to 2014, BHP was “selling” minerals mined in Australia to its Singaporean arm at well below market rates. The prices were then marked-up and sold on to third-party companies in Singapore, thereby attracting the infinitesimal Singaporean tax rate.
Australia's age pension system is under attack from the federal government and right-wing, neoliberal forces. The whole community, current and future retirees, needs to mobilise to defend and extend the age pension system and change the superannuation system to more adequately meet the needs of working people. The age pension in Australia dates back to 1909. It was established as a non-contributory scheme, largely as a result of the demands of unions and community pressure.
In the AFL’s nationalistic carnival, the Anzac Round, the Melbourne Demons and Richmond Tigers were lining up for their game on April 24. One of the Tigers players Bachar Houli, is one of the AFL’s “multicultural ambassadors”. He is also the first practicing Muslim to play in the AFL. Elsewhere, Houli was being described quite differently. John Burns, radio broadcaster for Melbourne’s 3AW was reported to have labelled him a “terrorist”. The comment was overheard at a Richmond Football Club function by a senior club staffer and subsequently reported.
In a period of so-called “budget emergency” when deep funding cuts are being imposed on universities and scientific research, the federal government has managed to find $4 million for a “consensus centre” headed by advocate for climate inaction Bjørn Lomborg. The $13 million centre will form part of the University of Western Australia’s (UWA) business school, with the Commonwealth contributing $4 million over four years.
We have been assaulted by a massive celebration of 100 years since the landing at Gallipoli on April 25. This is partly due to the success of the protests at the 200th anniversary celebration of the January 26, 1788 First Fleet landing at Sydney Cove. There have been many protests on January 26 since then, undercutting and besmirching Australian nationalism.
An irony of the sacking of SBS sports journalist Scott McIntyre for a series of tweets he made on Anzac Day is that the hysterical reaction from politicians and the media, and the consequences he has faced, has only served to prove his initial point. Anzac Day is not about remembering history. To remember what actually happened at Gallipoli 100 years ago, and in Australia’s involvement in wars more generally, is not permissible. Whatever the Anzacs fought and died for, it was not free speech.
Historically, the strength of unionism in Australia rested on the three tenets of what came to be called “labourism” — white Australia, tariff protection and compulsory arbitration. As these policy settings were wound back, union membership fell into gradual and then steep decline. From the late-1980s, the union movement's chief response was to reduce the number of unions. This was advanced on the logic that a small number of large unions would have access to greater resources to direct towards retention and recruitment of members.
Stop the Intervention Collective (STICS) held a forum last month to update participants on the NT Intervention. Dr Shelley Bielefeld, lecturer in law at UWS, visiting scholar at Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at UTS and the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at ANU, spoke at the forum. Afterwards she spoke to Green Left Weekly. * * * How does the government justify the Intervention?
For most teenagers, starting high school triggers mixed emotions — nervousness, excitement, a sense of adventure. Adolescence is a critical period in everyone’s life. This is especially true for LGBTI youth. In the process of coming to terms with our sexuality and gender identity, we must also navigate the hardships that come with existing in a society that overwhelmingly neither accepts nor accommodates us.
Hone Harawira, leader of the MANA Movement of Aotearoa (New Zealand), has called on all those who support justice to join in the Day of Action to Stop the Forced Closure of Aboriginal Communities on May 1, both in Australia and in New Zealand. He has released this statement. * * *

World

The brutal determination of Indonesian President Joko Widodo to kill two Australian citizens comes as no surprise to West Papuan independence activists, who say they share Australia's pain. A West Papuan independence activist, who has been in exile for 12 years after escaping the Indonesian-controlled province, has called on the Australian government to look on “in sympathy [and] in pain” for his own people, who are being “killed like animals” after the execution of two Australians.
The French government has joined the Australian government in ignoring its own reports that say a transition to 100% renewable energy is feasible and involves little extra cost. Mediapart obtained a report from the French government’s environment and energy agency body ADEME that showed shifting to 100% renewable energy by 2050 is materially and technologically feasible. The report found it would cost relatively little more than the existing electricity supply, which is 75% nuclear.
Thailand's military junta’s new draft constitution is a pathetic, backward, anti-democratic and infantile document. Just like the rantings of generalissimo Prayut Chan-ocha, the regime's prime minister, it is full of tub-thumping and shouting about the “duties” and “responsibilities” of Thai people to grovel to “Nation, Religion and King”. It is infantile because it is written by conservatives who think that by bullying the population into conforming to elite beliefs, they can actually change peoples’ attitudes.
Speaking to party activists after the left-wing Socialist Party (SP) once again recorded a positive result in the March 18 provincial elections, party leader Emile Roemer said: “This is an historic evening. We have become the biggest left party in the Netherlands. “The SP is a powerful factor in the Senate. An ideal starting point for the SP to be elected to government at the next general election.”
Britain's May 7 general election is set to be the closest in living memory. In the polls, the two leading parties, Labour and the Conservatives (Tories), are within points of each other. The polls have not shifted despite the best efforts of Tory Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband to secure a breakthrough. Why are the polls so close?
The fifth anniversary of BP's Macondo well explosion was marked on April 20. The explosion killed 11 rig workers and sent millions of barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, making it the worst offshore oil spill in US history. Oil gushed from the site for 87 days, killing wildlife and prompting fishing bans. It also led to safety regulation standards intended to make the offshore oil and gas industry safer.
Democrat Hillary Clinton has finally announced she is running for United States president in next year's elections. In the goof-ball electoral farce that US elections have evolved into, the electoral campaign actually began shortly after the 2012 election. So it is not odd that the campaigns of both the Republicans and Democrats are now in earnest, nineteen months before the actual election — something not seen in any other “advanced” country.
Two years after the 2013 factory collapse in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, that killed more than 1100 people, the victims' families filed a lawsuit in a US federal court on April 24. It targets Wal-Mart Stores Inc and other US-based companies that sourced their products from the Rana factory. The plaintiffs claim the retailers knew “that Bangladesh factories had an extremely poor record of workplace safety standards and industrial building standards, including garment factories”.
"More than three-quarters of the buildings in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, are uninhabitable or unsafe following the 7.9-magnitude earthquake nine days ago, a new survey has revealed," The Guardian reported on May 4.
The 40th anniversary of the end of Vietnam War, which claimed the lives of millions of Vietnamese as a result of the United States aggression against the country, was marked on April 30. The war lasted from 1955 to 1975. Ending in Vietnamese victory with the forced US withdrawal. It is known in Vietnam as the “War Against the Americans to Save the Nation”.
A global day of action on April 29 involved protests in several cities to call on the Indonesian government to allow free and open access into occupied West Papua for international journalists, humanitarian agencies and human rights groups. Melbourne rally co-organiser said Matt Gale said: “West Papua is one of the world’s most isolated conflict spots. For decades, indigenous activists campaigning for their rights have been arrested, disappeared, tortured and killed.

A new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found Venezuela cut its military budget by 34% last year, leading the region in arms spending cuts. In contrast, United States political allies Paraguay and Mexico led the region in upping military spending, raising military budgets by 13% and 11%, respectively.

During the final session of El Salvador's outgoing parliament on April 29, right-wing parties blocked a vote to ratify a constitutional reform that would have enshrined water and food as human rights. In doing so, the bloc of Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), National Conciliation (PCN), and Christian Democrat (PDC) parties demonstrated their support for elite business interests over the health and wellbeing of the Salvadoran people.

People around the world took to the streets on May 1 to mark May Day, the international workers' day. The day started in the United States in the late 1800s, when unions first called for an eight hour work day, but countries throughout the world soon followed suit in demands for better working conditions.

Photo: Unite.org.nz New Zealand's Unite Union, which organises fast food, hospitality and retail workers, announced a big win on May 1 with McDonald's finally agreeing to join Burger King and Restaurant Brands and cease using controversial “zero hour” contracts.

Thousands of Venezuelans took part in May Day rallies on May 1 to mark the international workers' day and commemorate the achievements of the country's pro-poor Bolivarian revolution. Speaking to May Day celebrations in Caracas, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said: “Now is time for workers to lead the economic policy of the country.”
Malaysian police have arrested Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general S. Arutchelvan, formal President of Malaysian Bar Council Ambiga Sreenevasan and member of parliament for Seremban Anthony Loke at a May Day demonstration on May 1. The arrests are part of the recent wave of crackdown on anti-GST (anti-poor goods and services tax) and aim to further curtail dissent in the country. Another 29 young people were arrested soon after the May Day rally. More people have been call to report themselves to the police otherwise will be subjected to arrest.
In a three-hour appearance on private TV channel Star TV on April 27, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke extensively about the challenges confronting the anti-austerity government led by the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA). The program began with a grilling of Tsipras by interviewer Niko Katsinikolao and ended with questions from a 50-strong audience. A lot of questions reflected growing concern that talks with the country’s creditors — mainly the “Troika” of the European Union (EU), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) — were stalled.

Six Baltimore police officers will face criminal charges over the death of 25-year-old African American man Freddie Gray, who died in police custody, prosecutors announced on May 1. Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who said the charges will include manslaughter and murder, added that Gray had committed no crime and was "illegally arrested".

The Third World countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America should form an alliance in order to “end imperialist domination,” Venezuelan vice-president Jorge Arreaza has said. Arreaza proposed a Third World alliance during a speech at the Asia-Africa Summit in Indonesia on April 25. Speaking as a special Latin American representative, Arreaza told the audience the alliance was needed to overthrow imperialism and end the unipolar system imposed on Southern nations.

Photo: Venezuelan Presidency Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro inaugurated the 700,000th house built under a state-led initiative to provide housing to the most needy Venezuelans on April 17. During the celebration of the launch, part of the Great Mission for Venezuelan Housing program, Maduro said the program aimed to build hundreds of thousands of new houses between now and the end of next year.

In California, the local chapter of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has vowed to shut down ports on May 1 in a historic protest against police brutality, Democracy Now! reported. In a statement, the union said: "It is fitting that on May Day, International Workers Day, Bay Area ports will be shut down to protest the racist police killing of mainly black and brown people."
Democracy Now! on the anger that has exploded in Baltimore. The trsnscript is below. ***
A 7.9-magnitude earthquake claimed over 4100 lives and left close to 7000 injured in Nepal. Dozens of powerful aftershocks have rocked the country since Saturday. The quake is the worse in 80 years. Below we provide constant updates from a variety of sources. Prime Minister Sushil Koirala told Reuters the death toll could reach 10,000, as information of damage from far-flung villages and towns has yet to come in.

Culture

If you don't understand baseball's Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, then you can't understand why the Maryland city exploded this week. If you don't understand Oriole Park at Camden Yards then you can't understand why what happened in Baltimore can replicate itself in other cities around the United States.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War on April 30, US rapper Marcel Cartier released the track "The Guns Of The Viet Minh".
Last year, self-described "pick-up artist" and committed misogynist Julien Blanc arrived in Australia for a planned series of seminars on how to harass women. In response, a grassroots feminist network organised protests that forced several venues to cancel Blanc's seminars and, eventually, prompted the Australian government to cancel Blanc's visa.
It's Fatal Miss Hood Payback Records Out now www.facebook.com/misshoodoffical Hard-hitting rapper Miss Hood comes from a long line of women warriors. Her ancestors, the Kunai and Gunditjmara people of eastern and western Victoria, put female fighters on the frontline. "Both of the tribes were matriarchal, so women were equal to men," says the Melbourne-based emcee. "It wasn't unusual to have women warriors as well as men warriors." Little wonder, then, that her music packs such a powerful feminist punch.