Freaking Over Finals

Dear Aunt Pep,

The gloomy end of semester is on the horizon. Cram-studiers and HD-highway riders are all flooding the libraries. Note-writing, practice exams, last-ditch efforts for tute participation… What’s your advice for completing these final weeks of study?

Help!

Freaking-Over-Finals

Dear Freaking-Over-Finals,

Trust me, we’re all here right now, so you’re far from alone. Hancock is heaving and any-non-law-student who enters the lawbry bears the risk of 50 side-eyes faster than you can say ‘statutory interpretation’ when their true identity is divulged. But fear not! You’ve gotten through every single exam period until now and you will get through this one just the same. Aside from the holding-tight, white-knuckle instinct that has subsumed most of us by this point, merely trying to hold our breaths and survive until the end of semester, it’s time to get down to business—you still have time to get your shit together. First and foremost, I advocate finding out what you need to find out. There’s nothing worse than not knowing what you don’t know. After that, work with the time you have and space it all out (just kidding, you have exams on the 4th, 5th and 6th of June)! Most importantly, I recommend rewards—sure it’s vaguely humiliating and definitely Pavlovian but hey, there’s nothing that keeps you going that a solid positive morale. Time to stock up on some good quality chocolate.

Yours, stressed but not defeated,

Aunt Pep

Wise Words from Aunt Pep

Dear Aunt Pep,

Our logic has always been that if you get good grades, you’ll get a better job. However, to get a job in the legal profession you need experience. To get experience, you need to get a job in the legal profession. To do either of these, you need to compromise your grades. So, what do we do?

Best,

Professionally Perturbed

 

Dear Professionally Perturbed,

It is a truth universally acknowledged that law students with an intention to practice are in search of the elusive balance between good grades and legal experience. Unfortunately for all of us, most students find themselves entirely lacking Jane Austen’s deft plotting abilities. Take comfort in the fact that for all of us without barristers for daddies or other opportunities provided by nepotism or cronyism, how to hit the career jackpot is a question with no absolute answer.

Just like all those problem questions we’ve worked through, a variety of conclusions are valid – the significance is in the reasoning. If you suspect your grades might suffer from the traditionally long hours legal jobs (whether paid or volunteer) require, then perhaps stick to coursework during the semester and dip your toe in the legal pool during winter and summer breaks.

Conversely, if you feel like your courses are feeling increasingly abstract and that you might benefit from putting theory into practice, polish your resumé, get applying and see what turns up.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember, we can’t all be Mr Darcy.

Aunt Pep

 

The People You Meet at ANU Law

By Lucy McKindlay

 

Tag yourselves…

The Big Fish in a Small Pond One

  • Duxed their high school.
  • Has done every extra-curricular known to man.
  • Thinks a high ATAR will translate into good law marks.
  • Actually just super burned out and really should have taken a gap year. 

 

The Hungover One

  • Is at Moose religiously every Thursday night (most Fridays and Saturdays too).
  • Has a much less consistent record for attending lectures.
  • Always cops the 10% tutorial participation mark.
  • You would be forgiven for forgetting they take the course entirely, until you see them emerge across the room for the final exam. You might even be lucky enough to catch them at the graduation ceremony, but only because it’s an opportunity to go for a well-deserved drink afterwards.

 

The Over-Achieving One

  • Is so excited and so happy to be here.
  • It is their passion to be a human rights lawyer and to work for the UN.
  • Is always on top of all their readings and says that they are really enjoying their subjects.
  • Catchphrase: “Law is a challenge, but that’s a good thing!”
  • (Is actually dying inside).

 

The Daley Road One

  • Often seen wearing puffer jackets and RMs, despite the fact they come from Sydney or Melbourne and haven’t been on a farm in their life.
  • Usually turns up to tutorials with their posse of college mates, yet looks bewildered and out of place in that one elective where there are only townies to talk to.
  • Already has their clerkship confirmed and probably a place in a top tier law firm.
  • Is really just riding out the degree to get the piece of paper at the end.

 

The Creative One

  • Does a visual arts degree with a side of law.
  • Only does law to appease the family, but really does not care at all about fiduciary duties or corporate contracting… this is probably a good thing, because they have no idea what is going on 90% of the time.
  • Does no work but somehow manages to manipulate that creative genius and get decent marks.
  • Always turns up to class 20 minutes late but looks edgy enough to never be called up for it.

 

The Arrogant One

  • Without fail, always claims they have barely studied for their exam and didn’t start their assignment until the last minute. (Has actually been working hard for months.)
  • Always says they are disappointed with their marks, yet after you reveal your (actually) low grade, they reveal they received a measly 88.
  • Enthusiastically congratulates you on your shitty mark despite this significant gap.

Australian Taxation Office Exposed for Fraudulent and Dishonest Behaviour

By Emilio Lanera

In 2006, Helen Petaia started her own business called Safe Family Cards Australia (SFCA). The purpose of Petaia’s company is to deliver immediate access to critical medical information. This simple, yet brilliant, idea was inspired by a medical emergency Petaia had experienced. During the birth of her youngest son, the hospital was not able to locate crucial medical documents that were instrumental to ensuring a safe and healthy birth.

Petaia was able to find investors to back her enterprise, and won contracts with major sporting codes, such as the Queensland Rugby League and AFL Auskick. She was even awarded government research and development grants, and tax rebates, to aid her in her endeavour.

However, in 2012, Petaia’s hard work would be undermined by dirty tactics of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Petaia was accused of being reckless and making false and misleading statements. Following these accusations SFCA was audited by the ATO, and after a year of silence, the ATO sent her a letter that claimed she owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Office.

Under the impression Petaia had been fraudulent and dishonest, investors immediately pulled out. This, however, was not the case. Petaia had followed all the taxation rules to textbook precision, and yet, for some reason, was being accused of tax evasion.

Tax

When company cash flow began to dry up and Petaia could no longer pay her children’s school fees or the mortgage on her house, she decided to challenge the ATO’s accusations. In 2014, Petaia demanded that every document held by the Office regarding herself and her business be provided to her. Not long after making these demands, ATO Assistant Commissioner Daryl Richardson called Petaia to explain that an error had been made in processing her documents. Richardson apologised and offered her $20,000 in compensation for the ramifications of this mistake.

The compensation offered was nowhere near the millions of dollars Petaia lost. Outraged by this injustice, Petaia decided to enter into mediation with the ATO in February this year, in an attempt to reclaim the millions of dollars she had lost.

Petaia is expected to be involved in a lengthy and costly legal battle with the ATO. However, this does not seem to deter her, as she says “Somebody eventually has to win against the Tax Office. They can’t keep winning just because they have more money, just because they have more power.”

Living in a free and democratic country like Australia, one would like to think that Petaia’s unfortunate incident with the ATO is a one-off. However, according to ATO Debt Collection Officer Richard Boyle, these kinds of tactics are used quite regularly to increase tax revenue.

In an interview with Four Corners, Boyle revealed that in June last year he was instructed to “clearly and categorically start issuing standard garnishees on every case.” A garnishee is a debt collecting tool that allows the ATO to order banks to take money from a taxpayer’s account without consulting the taxpayer themselves. Banks are then required, on an ongoing basis, to take money whenever it is deposited into the account and send it to the ATO. These questionable directions were followed by an email sent to Boyle in May this year, stating “the last hour of power is upon us… that means you still have time to issue another five garnishees… right?”

Boyle was also instructed to target small businesses. He suggested the reasoning behind this was that small businesses are less likely to challenge the ATO as they lack the financial capacity to endure a court battle. The ATO tried to prevent Boyle from going to the media by offering him a payout, but the debt collector decided he could not remain silent on the matter. Since exposing the ATO, Boyle has been suspended without pay, and was notified by the ATO they intended to dismiss him.

Although the ATO is attempting damage control, both Petaia and Boyle have exposed the agency for its fraudulent actions. Millions of Australians are furious, especially those who own or work for small businesses. The public is demanding that the Government undertake a public investigation of the ATO. Doing so it will allow Australian taxpayers to see that correct measures are being taken to quash corruption, and ensure that no one in the future has to endure a fate like that of Helen Petaia.