New Australian Taxation Office Commissioner Chris Jordan has broken his silence.
In a message to ATO staff two days ago in an internal magazine in his “Commish” column, obtained by Crikey, Jordan admits to being a bit daunted by his new role:
“This is week five for me and I’m still in learning mode, getting to know more of the business and more of the people.”
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He needs to act fast: a number of problems beset the organisation, from increasing taxpayer complaints, staff dissatisfaction with HR management, declining revenue and increased debt. He acknowledges the job ahead:
“This year will be a challenge for all of us. The current economic climate both in Australia and across the globe along with a pending federal election will mean we need to be proactive, flexible and innovative in our approach to our policies, procedures and initiatives.”
Some ATO staff and tax industry professionals have told Crikey Jordan may find it difficult to accomplish all he wants to achieve by setting up base in his home town of Sydney (he will visit Canberra HQ once or twice a week). Canberra is the hub of all ATO action; the big wigs that run all the tax office business lines are there, as is Treasury and the political set.
Crikey understands Jordan is yet to meet with some senior managers. But he tells staff he plans to be active in the next month:
“With the support of a number of people I’m now prepared for my first appearance at a number of key meetings and forums such as the ATO Executive Committee next week, the APS Diversity Council and the Corporate Design Forum the following week. I also attended a video conference with all the SES around the country last Wednesday, so I really am getting to know more about the work and the people.”
Something staff probably didn’t know about Jordan is his love of adventure trekking in his spare time. He writes:
“Something you may not know about me is my passion for adventure trekking. My most recent trek took me across the Tasman to explore some remote parts of New Zealand and in 2012 I trekked and rafted through the jungle terrain of Bolivia.”
And reiterating his inexperience in the new job and the challenges he faces, he told staff:
“Starting a new job is a bit like setting out on a new trek in that you have to tackle the unknown. And while you can read plenty of books about the landscape and challenges to be faced, it’s not until you are really there that you appreciate what you’ve gotten into and what marvels you will have to enjoy and the obstacles you might have to deal with.”
Jordan also paid tribute to his predecessor as tax commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo, who he said had set a high benchmark in leading the ATO.