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Thursday, 15 May 2014
Page: 3983

Ms HALL (ShortlandOpposition Whip) (10:35): One of the most popular community activities that happen within my office is Tax Help. The Australian Taxation Office comes out and has volunteers assist constituents in Shortland electorate and other electorates throughout the country to complete their income tax returns. This is geared towards pensioners and people on lower incomes. It is a way to ensure that their tax returns are done properly and that they can complete them affordably.

I was very distressed to learn recently that the ATO community and education section at Newcastle will close. Staff were asked to make sure that volunteers are ready for the Tax Help season, but all other activities will now be undertaken at Parramatta and Tax Help will be run from there from this year. So we have the local staff organising for Tax Help to go ahead and that section was closed on Tuesday, and now it will be overseen from Parramatta. That raises the question in my mind of the long-term commitment to Tax Help by the ATO within my area. This is such a valuable service to so many people that I really fear that this is just another example of an Abbott government cut that is going to impact on people who look to government for services. The other aspect of the community and education section is that it goes out and talks to people, particularly young people in schools, about tax. Now it will, once again, not be able to do that within the Hunter area.

I refer to a statement by Commissioner Jordan where he talks about the new mission of the tax office: 'to contribute to the economic and social wellbeing of Australians by fostering willing participation in the tax and superannuation systems'. When I think about willing participation, one of the ways that willing participation occurs is when the tax office goes out and promotes a positive image within the community, provides education, encourages people to complete their taxation and tells them what taxation is about—Medicare, hospitals, roads and schools. This closure and transfer to Parramatta means that there are no extra staff going to Parramatta. It is clearly a reduction of service and jeopardises Tax Help. (Time expired)