Geelong ATO office to stay after facing community pushback

By Shannon Jenkins

August 18, 2020

Sarah Henderson (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The Australian Taxation Office has reversed its decision to close its Geelong location.

The decision to keep the Little Ryrie Street building open was influenced by the Victorian COVID-19 situation, as well as pressure from community groups, the city council, the Community and Public Sector Union, Liberal senator Sarah Henderson, and Labor MPs Richard Marles and Libby Coker, according to the Geelong Advertiser.

The ATO’s lease at the office is set to expire in June 2021, after which the department will reportedly proceed with a smaller leasehold.

The Geelong staffers were told their office was no longer viable due to building occupancy and costs in late May, and would be subject to a four-week consultation process leading to the closure of the building. The employees were given the option of either transferring to Melbourne, or finding another job in Geelong, risking the loss of 121 jobs.

Read more: CPSU, Labor slam ATO office closure risking more than 100 jobs

CPSU deputy national secretary Beth Vincent-Pietsch said union members met with federal and state politicians, approached local government, and petitioned to keep the office open.

“The members deserve this win. They left no stone unturned to keep their jobs and protect regional economies,” she said.

“This campaign has highlighted the need to strengthen and grow public services in our regions. We know that since 2013 over 18,000 or 11% of public service jobs have been cut under successive Liberal governments, causing enormous damage to the capacity of the commonwealth to deliver policy and essential services that all Australians rely upon.

“Regional Australia desperately needs more jobs and better access to public services and government support. Creating new APS jobs in regional towns will deliver major benefits for communities and more job opportunities for APS staff.”

Meanwhile, the Committee for Geelong had raised concerns about the closure with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Henderson, the assistant commissioners, local ATO employees, the media and local stakeholders over the past several months, according to CEO Jennifer Cromarty.

“We were particularly concerned for additional job losses while unemployment rates continue to rise due to the pandemic and the projected impact on the supply chains, where job losses would also be felt,” she said.

“The potential flow-on effects of the loss of local ATO jobs on our economy would affect other industries such as hospitality and retail as consumption spending would have decreased.”

She argued that keeping the Geelong ATO office open has reaffirmed Geelong as a “national success story” of decentralisation of the public service.

“It provides us with hope for the future of Geelong’s economy in a post-pandemic setting and reminds us that putting pressure on key decision makers and advocating for what is important to our community can influence the future of our region,” she said.

“We congratulate Senator Henderson on pushing for this decision and supporting the Committee for Geelong’s advocacy through to her Federal parliamentary colleagues. We are particularly thrilled for the Geelong employees of the ATO who have been deeply concerned about their future.”

Henderson said she was “delighted to join the fight” against the closure, while Coker said the outcome was great for both staff and the region.

“It shows when we put politics aside and work together we can achieve for the people of Corangamite,” Coker said.

Read more: Qld looking at decentralised, capped public service workforce


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