Accommodation agreement is up in the air

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ASIC’s accommodation agreement with the Australian Tax Office-owned Traralgon office expires in 2025, prompting fears of job losses in the Latrobe Valley if the national corporate watchdog leaves the region.

Internal ASIC and ATO communications seen by the Express stated ASIC and its 80-odd staff would be leaving the region while the relocation of the 160 ATO employees remained uncertain.

In the ASIC memo sent on February 1, ASIC notified staff that it would no longer operate out of the Latrobe Valley.

The ATO then sent a separate letter to the ATO staff in the building, advising that they were reviewing the need to continue working from the Traralgon office, but offered no guarantees.

In an open letter to the federal treasurer, Jim Chalmers, the Federal Member for Gippsland, Darren Chester, expressed his concern at the uncertainty behind ASIC’s location.

“The lease on the Traralgon office expires in 2025 and ASIC has already advised the ATO that it doesn’t intend to remain a tenant in the building. For the record, I was not consulted and the advice was provided to me, and approximately 90 staff, as a foregone conclusion.” Mr Chester said.

“At the same time, I am advised the ATO is approaching the market to secure new premises for approximately 160 staff post-2025, with no assurances the office will be in Traralgon, or in fact the seat of Gippsland.”

Mr Chester indicated it was unclear why ASIC would move its headquarters, as the building was purpose-built to accommodate the government agency.

When approached for an official statement, an ASIC spokesperson stated: “ASIC has not held a lease in Traralgon since it transferred its existing lease to the ATO as part of a machinery of government change in early 2021.

“We currently have an accommodation agreement with the ATO, which expires in June 2025. ASIC is reviewing future needs for office space in Traralgon past this date.”

“There will be no changes to staff employment arrangements or staff redundancies as a result of our property decision,” the ASIC spokesperson said.

ASIC’s registry services staff and functions were transferred to the ATO on April 15, 2021, as part of the ‘Machinery of Government’ administrative shift.

Mr Chester called on the government to reassure Gippsland that Australian public service jobs were safe, secure and here for the long road.

“At a time when Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley are experiencing significant economic shocks related to the transition in the energy sector and the state government’s failure to support the native hardwood timber sector, we can’t afford further job losses,” Mr Chester said.

Addressing Mr Chambers directly, he added: “It would be an appalling decision by your government to abandon the Latrobe Valley as we seek to secure job opportunities for existing residents and the next generation of young Gippslanders,”

Mr Chester further pledged to collaborate with the treasury and the federal government to secure local job opportunities.

“Please advise what steps your government is taking to secure APS employment opportunities in the electorate of Gippsland and provide my community with some assurances that their families have a long-term future in the Latrobe Valley. We need a local jobs guarantee from your government at this challenging time.” Mr Chester said.

Speculation of ASIC leaving started several years ago. The building was sold in 2019 for about $25 million on a 14 per cent yield. ASIC has been the sole occupant of the Traralgon building since it was completed in 1991.