Open letter to the Prime Minister on Panama Papers

21 April 2016

A coalition of Australian organisations has today called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to end the Government’s silence over the Panama Papers and to commit to taking action on tax dodging by wealthy individuals and corporations.

ActionAid Australia, the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS), the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), GetUp!, Greenpeace, SEED, the Tax Justice Network of Australia and UnitingJustice Australia are among the 44 signatories of an open letter demanding that the Prime Minister take action to end tax dodging practises that have robbed critical resources from the Australian budget.

Dear Prime Minister,

We represent a broad cross-section of Australians who believe our society should be built on equity and fairness.

The Panama papers – a giant leak of more than 11.5 million financial and legal records – has exposed an elaborate system of tax havens and fraudulent shell companies that allow the wealthy to hide money from Australia’s tax system.

By allowing corporations and wealthy people to set up shell companies and shift profits offshore, our politicians are giving the mega rich the tools they need to hide public money through tax dodging. This lost revenue means millions of dollars’ worth of public services go down the drain.

When wealthy people are allowed to hide money offshore, we all suffer: our schools are forced to rely on the charity of parents to buy the equipment they need to teach our kids, our hospitals have to turn their back on people in need of beds, homeless youth and family violence victims can’t get help, people without paid work have to survive on just $37 a day and we will struggle to transition to a world with zero carbon pollution.

It’s time for everyone to contribute their fair share to building a better country. It’s time for politicians to promote the wellbeing of all Australians, not the selfish interests of a few.

Prime Minister, you can outlaw the use of shell companies with concealed ownership and other means of tax avoidance.

You can require multinational companies to be transparent about their activities, so that they can’t avoid their tax obligations.

You can scrap secrecy laws that allow accountants and lawyers to help their clients siphon away public money.

You can restore jobs in critical watchdog agencies, such as the Australian Tax Office and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, and abandon plans to put the current registry of company ownership into corporate hands. The Panama Papers highlight the harm that will happen if registries of company ownership are put in private hands.

And you can choose to ensure there is sufficient public revenue to provide vital public services and infrastructure for all of us.

In the face of public outrage at the revelations of the Panama papers, these are easy choices for you to make. You have the power. You have public support. You just have to act.

Prime Minister, most of us do the right thing and we expect corporations and the mega rich to pay their fair share of taxes as well. All we are asking is that there is one set of rules for everyone. Not one set of rules for the mega rich and another set of rules for everyone else.