Subcontractors in Queensland who were caught up in a collapse for which they were collectively owed around $30 million are set to meet the state’s new housing minister next week to call for better payment security for subcontractors, according to media reports.
The Sunshine Coast Daily has reported that Housing Minister Leanne Enoch as well as Nicklin MP Peter Wellington would meet representatives of the Subcontractors’ Alliance on April 2 regarding calls for changes to payment law introduced by the Newman government last year to be wound back as well as arrangements regarding a public hearing set to be held late next month into the collapse of Walton Construction, which went into liquidation in October 2013 owing more than $70 million to contractors nationwide including $30 million to at least 600 contractors in Queensland.
"Like him, I'm committed to making sure that the concerns of subcontractors are considered throughout this process," Enoch said, referring to Wellington regarding a proposal that funding be provided by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission to allow for the Subcontrators’ Alliance to be represented at next month’s hearing.
"It is up to the liquidators to engage legal representatives and advisors, so if the liquidators decide to engage a particular representative, then yes, their costs would be covered by the funding provided by QBCC to the liquidator."
Enoch says she is also seeking advice on a call from subcontractors on calls for amendments to the Building and Construction Industry Payments Act introduced late last year to be wound back.
Billed by Liberal Housing Minister Tim Mander at the time as simplifying the system, addressing conflicts of interest, and addressing a situation whereby response time-frames for payment claims within the industry were similar irrespective of either the size of the complexity of the claim, the new system has seen adjudicators for payment claims appointed by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission, a reduction in the timeframes in which claims for payments needed to be made from twelve months to six months and more time for payers to respond to large and complex claims.
Coolum civil engineer and Subcontractors’ Alliance head Les Williams said a throughout examination of the Walton collapse was needed and the law needed to be changes to better protect all subcontractors, of whom he says there are 85,000 employing more than 250,000 people in Queensland alone and whom are most impacted when principal contractors fail to meet payment obligations.
Founded in the 1990s, the Walton Construction group rose to become a thriving company with an annual turnover of more than $360 million and a headcount of 340 employees – the jewel among its portfolio of projects being a $103 million refurbishment of a David Jones store in Melbourne.
The company suffered in its later years of existence, however, amid a severe building sector downturn following the Global Financial Crisis and some poor results on projects in New South Wales.
Prior to going into liquidation in October 2013, Walton transferred assets to two other companies, both of which went into liquidation in the months thereafter.