A false alarm rings in opening

IT’S not how it was supposed to go — staff fleeing Albury’s new tax office straight after the official opening took place.

The Albury Fire Brigade rushed two trucks to the seven-storey Smollett Street building after an alarm in the foyer was triggered.

That put a dampener on preceedings for guest of honour, tax officer commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo and assistant, Debra Unsworth, who were all set to meet the press.

Red-faced ATO staff busily tried to short- circuit the alarm as staff filed out two emergency exits before returning via the main foyer.

The evacuation didn’t affect all the building where more than 700 people work.

VIP guests, including former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer, member for Albury Greg Aplin and mayor Alice Glachan, were in the building when the alarm sounded.

They had been at the official opening performed by Mr D’Ascenzo and long-time former employees, including Denis Murnane and Jim Lannan.

Mrs Unsworth later downplayed the false alarm, saying “it is actually good to know all the features operate”.

“They have obviously been tested over weeks,” she said. “Our staff quickly evacuated.”

Member for Farrer and former tax office staffer Sussan Ley had commitments in Broken Hill and did not attend.

Mrs Unsworth said the building was the start of a new era for the tax office in Albury.

“In this building we have up to 700 desks but a staff of about 1200 people,” she said.

“It is a significant employer for the region.

“This new office is part of the ATO’s national accommodation strategy.

“We have here an office that will serve the community nationally for 25 years.

“The office started in Albury with a staff of about eight people in the 1970s.

“It has been part of the ATO accommodation and location plan for some time.”

Mr D’Ascenzo’s visit was one of his final engagements after he announced earlier this year he would leave the post after seven years.

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