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Mr Turnbull, Panama Papers require action, not silence

20 April 2016 By ASU & partners

A coalition of Australian organisations including the ASU has published an open letter calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to end the Government’s silence over the Panama Papers and to commit to taking effective action on tax dodging by wealthy individuals and corporations.

160421 why silent panamapapers take action on tax dodging 1000pxwThe Australian Services Union along with ActionAid Australia, the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS), the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, GetUp!, Greenpeace, SEED, the Tax Justice Network of Australia and UnitingJustice Australia are among the 44 signatories of the open letter demanding that the Prime Minister take action to end tax dodging practises that have robbed critical resources from the Australian budget.

>> icon Read the open letter here

The letter has been published in the Fairfax media here: Malcolm Turnbull under pressure to stop the wealthy stashing cash in tax havens, by Heath Aston, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 April 2016

The letter calls on the Turnbull government to act on tax avoidance and reminds the Prime Minister of the Australian Government’s responsibility to “promote the wellbeing of all Australians, not the selfish interests of a few”.

The letter highlights the impact of tax dodging schemes on public services and infrastructure. The agencies call on the Prime Minister to outlaw the use of shell companies with concealed ownership and other means of tax avoidance and tighten regulations around corporate transparency.

The ASU argues that quite aside from the inherent issue of unfairness, with ordinary taxpayers bearing a disproportionate amount of the revenue burden for governments while corporations and the mega rich evade their fair share, there is the issue of the quality of everyone's life being diminished as government services are wound back.

Tax is a dirty word when it's unfairly collected and unfairly spent - when it is collected in an equitable way and used to provide the infrastructure and services that Australians expect in our community, tax is part of the social contract. In fact, many Australians report they would be happy to pay more tax in a fair system if it would improve things like health and education provision.

ACTU President, Ged Kearney, called for an economy that “works for everyone, not just for the wealthiest 1%”.

"People are sick and tired of being used as an ATM by big corporations who profit from Australian workers, resources and public infrastructure, then refuse to give back,” Ms Kearney said.

Paul Oosting, National Director of GetUp!, said that public support is there for the Government to take real action on tax dodging.

"Against a backdrop of vicious funding cuts to local hospitals and schools, the Turnbull Government insists it's done enough to crack down on rampant tax dodging by corporations and the 1%. But when everyday Australians are paying more tax than billionaire corporations like Chevron, Pfizer and JP Morgan, there can be no more excuses."

“Our government has known for a long time that shell companies with concealed ownership are used to assist wealthy people and criminals in tax evasion and avoidance, money laundering, fraud, and the illicit arms trade”, said Dr Mark Zirnsak, spokesperson for the Tax Justice Network Australia.

“It is time the Australian Government required the ultimate owners and controllers of companies to be made public,” Dr Zirnsak said.

Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of the Australian Council of Social Services, said that loopholes in the company tax system needed to be closed before consideration of tax cuts.

“It is not acceptable for governments to be reducing funding to basic services while leaving gaping holes in our tax system. Public confidence in the tax system depends on people and companies paying their fair share. Loopholes that allow individuals and corporations to avoid their obligations should be systematically closed. This should be a first priority in the broader tax reform process.”

Reverend Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice Australia said, “Taxation is a profoundly moral issue. A fair tax system is one of the most important tools we have for achieving a society where all people can flourish. The revenue being lost to the Government by tax avoidance directly affects the quality of life in our country and the quality of life of our neighbours in some of the most impoverished communities around the globe. It is time for the Government to act so that we have a tax system that benefits those who need it most.”

More information

For ASU comment, contact: Linda White, Acting ASU National Secretary on 03 9342 1400

For comment by our partners:

Fernando de Freitas, ACOSS - 0419 626 155
Ben Jessup, ACTU - 0410 632 123
Natalie O’Brien, GetUp! - 0439 966 530
Dr Mark Zirnsak, Tax Justice Network - 0409 166 915
Matt Pulford, Uniting Church in Australia Assembly 0408 634 373

Contact Details
Name: Linda White, Acting ASU National Secretary
Telephone: 03 9342 1400