Helping Melbournians navigate the tax system - Speech, Melbourne

HELPING MELBOURNIANS NAVIGATE THE TAX SYSTEM

THE UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE

MONDAY, 15 APRIL 2019

I acknowledge the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation and pay respect to their elders.

Thank you to Provost Mark Considine and Melbourne University Law School Dean Pip Nicholson for your hospitality. I’d particularly like to acknowledge my colleagues. Labor’s Melbourne candidate Luke Creasey is an educator and somebody who is passionate about social justice and is enthusiastic about today's announcement. Peter Khalil, a Melbourne University alumnus, an internationalist and somebody with whom I've had many conversations about the importance of providing better supports to disadvantaged members of our community. Ged Kearney, who has spent her life standing up for working people and who is one of our most thoughtful voices in the Labor team about how to ensure that we have public services that work for all.

I’d especially like to thank Sunita Jogarajan and Kate Fischer Doherty, whose thought leadership is bringing the tax clinic project together at the moment. This is an enormously exciting announcement for us, an announcement that a Shorten Labor Government would provide $150,000 in ongoing funding for a tax clinic here at Melbourne University. Not a one off trial, but ongoing support.

Tax clinics have their genesis in the United States Low Income Tax Clinics. In Australia it's been people like Ali Noroozi the former Inspector General of Tax and Curtin University that have shown how the model can work effectively.

I studied law as a student and valued particularly my time working in two community legal centres: the Redfern Legal Centre in Sydney and the Welfare Rights Centre in Canberra. It was important to me as a student to really see what it was like to interact with the law for those living on the margins of society. That engagement with community legal centres has been a vital way in which law schools have sought to reach out to the community and sought to ensure that there is a culture of giving back within the law. Our hope is that tax clinics will do the same. They’ll provide vital services to those struggling to understand the tax code. There’s more than a few tax nerds in the room. I suspect people like Miranda Stewart and I get a sort of unholy delight in doing our own tax returns and seeing the twists and turns of the system-

[laughter]

But that's not the way most people see their taxes. For many people, the tax system can be pretty daunting. They can find themselves caught up in tax affairs where they simply don't understand what's gone wrong. And that's where tax clinics can step in to provide assistance, dovetailing with community legal centres. I know that Melbourne’s tax clinic will look to serve the most disadvantaged partly by drawing in clients through community legal centres. 

This tax clinic will also do another important thing, which is to ensure that as we train tax professionals we are making sure that those tax professionals see an obligation to give back to the community. Studying tax isn't just about being there to help those with means to find their way through the tax system. It's also about ensuring we have a tax system that works for all, about building a stronger culture of volunteering among tax professionals. 

So thank you all - tax experts, members of the Labor team, members of the Melbourne University University administration - for your support for what is we think a really exciting announcement. If the Shorten Government is elected, we hope to work with you in the community that Ged and Peter represent and that Luke hopes to represent to ensure this tax clinic serves the most disadvantaged, builds that culture of philanthropy and ensure we’re a stronger and fairer society.

ENDS

Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra.


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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | Andrew.Leigh.MP@aph.gov.au | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.