Ripped off subbies warn 'we'll send bikies after you'

A SPATE of multi-million dollar building industry collapses has subbies warning they may need to return to the days bikies were used as debt collectors to ensure they get paid.

Subcontractors Alliance spokesman Les Williams said anger had been fuelled by the collapse in December of Cullen Group Australia with debts already at $19 million and likely to continue to grow.

He estimates that since the $70 million collapse of Walton Construction in 2013 the industry had suffered a further $300 million in losses among tier two builders alone.

Mr Williams said a number of subbies he has spoken with are fed up.

"They have said if they are going to continue to be exposed they will revert to the old method of engaging bikies as debt collectors," he said.

Mr Williams has called on the Queensland Building and Construction Commission to release the financial reporting it relied on at the start of 2016 to renew the Cullen Group's licence.

He said subcontractors struggled to get paid throughout the year and were finally left stranded when the QBCC suspended Cullen's licence in December.

The Queensland Government has started to roll out major reform of the construction industry with plans to trial project bank accounts from 2018 on government projects valued between $1 million and $10 million and all construction above $1 million in value from January, 2019.

It has also replaced the QBCC board and appointed a new commissioner as part of a major shake-up for the industry.

Les Williams from WK Civil is leading the fight to have subcontractors paid for the work they did for collapsed builder Walton Constructions.
Les Williams from WK Civil is leading the fight to have subcontractors paid for the work they did for collapsed builder Walton Constructions. Brett Wortman

Announcing plans in November for an improved security of payment process Mr de Brenni said late payments, non-payments and insolvencies were systemic, widespread and impacted badly on subcontractors, who usually rely on contractors above them for payment.

He said a Deloitte report commissioned by the Palaszczuk government showed the state could benefit from $6.42 billion in extra economic activity over the next 20 years through action on security of payment.

The construction sector contributed around $44 billion in 2015-2016 to the state's economy and delivers about 220,000 jobs.

"I've heard from countless subbies across the state that non-payment or delayed payment is killing small business confidence," Mr de Brenni said at the time.

"It wrecks their business, it tears apart families, some people are losing everything and this impacts on suppliers and the wider community."

Mr Williams said both customers and businesses relied for confidence on the financial scrutiny applied by the QBCC in issuing building licences.

He said it was clear by the number of significant losses made by people licensed by the QBCC that the confidence was misplaced.


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