LEGAL PROFESSIONALS across the country have had their contributions to society recognised in the 2005 Australia Day Honours list.
Most notably, Mark Leibler AO and Emeritus Professor Enid Campbell OBE were appointed Companions in the Order of Australia (AC).
Campbell was recognised for her service to legal scholarship and education, and raising debate in the field of constitutional law, and to public law reform.
She has published more than 100 scholarly articles in Australian and international journals and is a member of many influential boards and committees that review Australian law and the Constitution.
Leibler, senior partner with Arnold Bloch Leibler in Melbourne, was appointed an AC in recognition of his service to business, the law — particularly in the areas of taxation and commercial law — the Jewish community internationally and in Australia, and to reconciliation and the promotion of understanding between indigenous and non-indigenous Australia.
Leibler said receiving the honour was a “very humbling experience” for him personally, but was also a reflection of all the individuals he had been involved with in the areas covered by the award.
While the award was a highlight, Leibler said, it won’t mark the end of his illustrious career.“All I know is I’m not in retirement mode,” he said, referring to his recent appointment as co-chair of Reconciliation Australia and his intent to further his current work in tax reform and increasing fairness in tax administration.
He said the disparity between the corporate tax rate and the maximum marginal rate was one “critical policy issue” that stood out from all the other debates on how people are taxed, and “as long as it exists we have a tax system that is totally unfair”. The more unfair the system, he added, the more there will be tax avoidance.
Simplification of Australia’s tax law from the current “horrendous, unmanageable, complex” legislation and areas of unfairness in tax administration were also high on his list of priorities.
Leibler said he believed legal training encouraged the “sort of rational thought processes that enable one to deal with, and tackle effectively, a whole range of areas”, and had facilitiated him greatly in his contributions to the community. “It’s a good education that equips you with analytical tools, and I like to think that coming to grips with the law bears some relationship with morality,” he said. “Hopefully that encourages one to give back a little as well as taking from the community.”
Leibler said he had participated in Jewish affairs since “well before” he was a lawyer, but again, his legal training had provided a “solid foundation on which to assume leadership roles”. However, it was his firm’s pro bono work in indigenous affairs that had brought about his involvement in reconciliation.
Arnold Bloch Leibler first started acting for the Yorta Yorta people in 1993, and took their native title claim to the High Court. Although the case was lost, the firm was able to negotiate “a very satisfactory outcome” with the Victorian Government, Leibler said, in which many of the Yorta Yorta people’s “major concerns” were addressed.