National

Australian Tax Office building at Gosford comes under fire in Senate

Senators have criticised the federal government's decision to shift 600 public service jobs to Gosford's waterfront as the campaign against the move gains momentum.

Concerns have been raised that contracts will be signed in the coming months when Parliament is not sitting and has less ability to scrutinise the deal between the government and developer, Canberra company Doma. 

This week Labor passed a motion with the support of the Greens and other crossbenchers calling on the government to abandon its decision to locate the new public service office on the Gosford waterfront and for a new location to be determined.

Most of the public servants will work for the Australian Taxation Office. 

The motion noted the "broad community opposition" to the federal government's announced intention to build a Commonwealth building on land already earmarked for other projects, including a regional performing arts centre.

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Last month, almost 1000 people reportedly turned up to protest against the old Gosford school site being used for offices.

At the same time Gosford mayor Lawrie McKinna told the Central Coast Express-Advocate the local council had been kept in the dark about where the public servants would be based and that he would have preferred them in the CBD.

In the Senate on Wednesday, Labor Senator Deborah O'Neill said the tender should have been won by a bid put forward by Gosford Council in partnership with a private local developer who would have created a site for the ATO right next to the council chambers.

"The community would have had the benefit of that infrastructure remaining in the community," Senator O'Neill said. 

"And when the tax office decided to move its people out of town, we would have had a place in which to put new jobs and that building would have belonged to the community.

"Instead, this government has done a dodgy deal in the darkness with the state government and a private developer who does not even come from the Central Coast."

The NSW government agreed to sell a portion of land at the former Gosford school site to Doma, which was to be made effective upon the company and the ATO entering into a formal agreement for the building of the new premises.

Labor is in the process of trying to access correspondence between the NSW and federal governments. 

"The community is constantly articulating serious concerns around the whole tender process," Senator O'Neill said.

"Applicants have indicated that some of them received some of the information and others did not receive information.

"The lack of transparency is alarming."

The federal government has not yet detailed how many of the 600 jobs will involve people moving to Gosford from other locations such as Canberra.

Senator O'Neill said it would be "600 transfers, not 600 jobs for locals on the Central Coast".

"$70 million is to be paid to a private developer for this four-storey, brown brick building, which is locked up, and people transferring from Canberra into the jobs will use a swipe card to go into that building," she said.

"It is not accessible to the community and there are very few local jobs."

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