The war of words continues between Sen Deborah O’Neill and member for Robertson, Ms Lucy Wicks MP, over whether the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) building on Gosford’s waterfront will or will not create jobs for locals.
According to Sen O’Neill, senior officials from the ATO admitted that about 700 ATO jobs would have to be transferred across the country before locals would be able to staff the planned ATO building in Gosford. Sen O’Neill said that claims made by Ms Wicks that the new jobs would be for locals was false, in light of that evidence. According to Sen O’Neill, a report in the Canberra Times newspaper revealed that 6,200 ATO desks were sitting empty around the country and the ATO had been fi ned by the Department of Finance for its lacklustre performance in managing its property portfolio.
“The ATO is trying to extract itself from leases on office space equivalent to 2.5 times the size of the Melbourne Cricket Ground’s playing surface,” Sen O’Neill said. “Yet a department that has been fi ned for poor handling of its property thinks that the $71 million expenditure to lease a new building on the Gosford waterfront is prudent. “There were cheaper options on the table for the ATO to choose from. “One was a site in the [Gosford] CBD, not on prime waterfront, where the investment in Gosford would reap the most benefit for local businesses.
“The waterfront was put aside as an arts and recreational precinct for the community; not a public service office block. “We cannot trust Lucy Wicks on anything she says about the ATO building because she has been found out,” Sen O’Neill said. However, Ms Wicks said she welcomed comments made in Senate Estimates hearings that, she said, confi rmed the boost to local jobs from the Turnbull Government’s commitment to a ‘Commonwealth Agency’ in Gosford. ATO commissioner, Mr Chris Jordan told the hearing that while the final mix hadn’t been determined, claims that they would be purely relocated jobs were simply a “myth”, Ms Wicks said.
“The ATO has made it clear that there is no intention to move large slabs of people to Gosford which means more opportunity and more jobs for Coasties,” Ms Wicks said. “Confirmation that the ATO is looking to recruit the ‘vast bulk’ of people from our region is another huge vote of confidence in Gosford and the Central Coast, and affirms what we’ve been saying since we committed to this project as part of the Coalition’s Growth Plan for the Central Coast.
“These 600 new federal jobs for Gosford will be in a new leased building facing Georgiana Tce, only a couple of minutes from Kibble Park, and will be a huge boost to our local economy,” Ms Wicks said. “I call it ‘coffee shop economics’, 600 new workers buying 600 coffees every day, 600 lunches and more,” she said. “If Labor’s serious about backing Gosford’s future, it should stop the smokescreen of misinformation and start realising that this is the biggest jobs-generating initiative the Central Coast has seen in years,” she said.
Media release, Feb 15, 2016 Tim Sowden, office of Lucy Wicks
Media release, Feb 16 2016 Office of Senator Deborah O’Neill