Inside the system

Punchbowl Boys’ replacement principal ran prison school

In early March the Principal of Punchbowl Boys’ High School, Chris Griffiths, along with Deputy Principal Joumana Dennaoiu, was sacked. His replacement, Robert Patruno, has a background in the prison system, as former head of the Reiby Juvenile Justice Centre’s education unit. The sacking and pointed replacement has been accompanied by a hysterical media campaign painting Punchbowl High as a hotbed of Islamic extremism. The school has a large proportion of Muslim students and Griffiths was allegedly resistant to the implementation of a NSW government “deradicalisation program”.

The program, “Schools Working Together”, now operates in 19 NSW schools. It involves surveillance of students’ religious activity, “vetting” of religious instructors and encourages staff to monitor and report students suspected of “radicalisation”. The program clearly targets Muslims, with all the participating schools in areas with large Muslim populations in Sydney’s west and southwest. Supposed signs of “radicalisation” listed in the program guidelines include common teenage behaviours like “decreased attendance at school”, “distancing from usual friends or a change in friendship groups” and “decreased interest in usual sport or social networks”. Teachers are also told to look out for “increased interest in or devoutness regarding religious beliefs”—a recipe for Islamophobic profiling.

A Change.org petition against Griffiths’ sacking has gained over 1800 signatures. It says: “There needs to be an inquiry into the NSW Department of Education’s decision-making process… The media has unfairly defamed both of their characters and labelled the students of Punchbowl Boys High School as radicalists and criminals… placing an ex-principal of a juvenile justice centre only exasperates (sic) the situation.”

Same-sex marriage reduces youth suicide

A large-scale study in the US has found a dramatic drop in teenage suicide in states that have legalised same-sex marriage. The study, published this year, examined the period from 1999 to 2015 in 47 states.

LGBTI students attempt and commit suicide at far higher rates than the rest of the population. US Federal data shows 15 per cent of heterosexual high school students have seriously considered suicide in the last year. For lesbian, gay and bisexual students the rate was triple at 43 per cent. During the years of the study 8.6 per cent of all teens reported attempting suicide when same-sex marriage had not been implemented. For LGBTI teens the rate was 28.5 per cent. However, in the 32 states that introduced same-sex marriage, suicide attempts dropped by 7 per cent. The study was published by Julia Raifman and her colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

48 people on over $1 million paid no tax

Tax office data has revealed that 48 Australian millionaires paid no income tax in the 2014-15 financial year. Nineteen gamed the system by claiming around $1.1 million each for the cost of “managing their tax affairs”. Nine reduced tax by spending a combined total of $27.5 million on “gifts or donations”. This allowed them to slip under the tax free threshold and avoid paying the Medicare levy.

Xinjiang bans beards

The Chinese government has ramped up its victimisation of Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim minority in the country’s far west. A series of bizarre anti-Muslim laws have recently been introduced in their province of Xinjiang. They include a ban on “abnormally long beards” and wearing veils and even on refusing to watch state television. Workers in stations and airports are also required to “dissuade” anyone wearing a veil from entering and to report them to police.

Target charge $72 for water after Cyclone Debbie

In the wake of Cyclone Debbie, Target was caught jacking up prices to take advantage of water shortages. A Target outlet in cyclone ravaged Bowen in Queensland displayed a pack of 24 bottles of water for $72. Similar products can be found for as little as $9.

An outraged local took to Facebook saying, “Talk about price gouging us while we are in need. Disgusting mongrels… I had only just left the disaster recovery people with lifeline there who gave me 12 bottles of water to bring home so we have clean drinking water and Target are pulling this stunt.” Target’s parent company Wesfarmers made $407 million profit after tax in 2015-16.

UK cuts cause 30,000 deaths in a year

Research published by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine has revealed a massive spike in deaths in England and Wales caused by government funding cuts. Analysis of National Health Service performance data found there were 30,000 “excess deaths” in 2015, the biggest spike in the entire post-war period. Analysis ruled out data errors, cold weather and flu as potential causes and revealed health care cuts were the major factor in the deaths.

Savage cuts to health spending and $28 billion in welfare cuts have ravaged Britain’s aging population; the elderly bore the brunt of the mortality.

The research points out that targets were missed for emergency waiting times and ambulance call-out times, staff absences are increasing and many hospital posts remain unfilled. Professor Martin McKee commented, “Given the relentless nature of the cuts, and potential link to rising mortality, we ask why is the search for a cause not being pursued with more urgency?”

Twiggy Forrest launches tax crusade while paying no tax

Twiggy Forrest, boss of Fortescue Metals Group, has joined a delegation of WA bigwigs in Canberra to demand a more equitable distribution of Federal GST tax revenue for WA. The delegation also included bosses from Wesfarmers and Woodside Petroleum. There is significant irony in Forrest styling himself as a champion of tax equity. Forrest’s private company Tatterang Pty Ltd paid no company tax in 2014 despite reporting $284.6 million in taxable income. Twiggy avoided taxation through consolidations and asset transfers with other companies run by Forrest.

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