The Taipan galaxy survey is a next-generation Southern hemisphere spectroscopic survey. It will be carried out with a refurbished UK Schmidt Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory using novel "starbug" positioning technology and a new spectrograph, with observations beginning in early 2017. The scientific goals of the survey are: (1) A 1% precision measurement of Hubble's constant, H_0; (2) The largest peculiar velocity survey to date to measure the bulk flows in the local Universe and constrain cosmology; and (3) measurement of the lowest-mass galaxies in the local Universe to robustly quantify galaxy environments and study galaxies in transition. The combination of the Taipan survey redshifts and spectroscopic measurements with other southern hemisphere surveys underway and planned will provide an enormous opportunity to characterise the evolution of galaxies from a broad multiwavelength perspective. These include optical/IR photometric surveys with SkyMapper, VISTA, and VST, the existing WISE mid-infrared survey, the GALEX All-sky Imaging Survey, eROSITA, and the planned ASKAP radio continuum and HI surveys, EMU and WALLABY. Taipan will provide the key redshift and spectroscopic measurements to unify and enhance this diverse collection, optimising studies of the Southern hemisphere for the coming decade. Future massively multiplexed integral field surveys, such as those proposed with HECTOR, will be able to draw on targets characterised by Taipan.