LEICHHARDT MP Warren Entsch has confirmed that the Australian Tax Office has advised it will be closing its office in Cairns, as the office consolidates its operations from its smallest regional sites.
“This is an ATO decision, not a government decision, no matter how Jan McLucas tries to spin it,” Mr Entsch said. “In fact, she seems to have conveniently forgotten some recent history.
“It was Senator McLucas’ Labor government that decided to shut the Cairns office down by stealth in 1996, delaying the announcement until after the election.
“I was successful in getting it reinstated in 1997 in anticipation of the Howard government implementing the GST, and it has well and truly served the purpose for which it was established.
“It’s rather ironic that yet again, the process of closing the Cairns office and other regional centres started under the previous Labor Government, in which Senator McLucas was a minister. Yet again, it was announced after a change in government.
“The difference of course this time is that it was an ATO process rather than a government process.
“It was aided in no small way though from the pressure put on the ATO in recent years because of Labor’s budget cuts in particular the increase to the efficiency dividend announced before the 2013 election.”
Mr Entsch said the ATO has been considering the closure of regional offices over the past 18 months and staff in these sites were made aware that their future was being reviewed.
“Senator McLucas was well aware at that point that the process had already started under her government. She’s clearly getting playing politics and is desperate to blame somebody else.”
Mr Entsch said the Cairns office was not a ‘shopfront’ but instead provided advisory assistance to taxpayers types of assistance that can be provided online, or through field visits and support from other regional sites.
“Staff will be given the opportunity to consider voluntary redundancies, re-deployment in another ATO site, or de-deployment to other agencies in their area, where that can be arranged.
“I would like to recognise the valuable work they have carried out over the last 14 years and say that the support they have provided to businesses, organisations and individuals in Leichhardt has been greatly appreciated.”
The program will cease and the offices close by 31 October 2014 to align with other steps the ATO is taking to manage their budget. As part of this, the ATO is re-examining how they deliver services, how they are structured and located.