Woolgoolga to Halfway Creek Pacific highway upgrade opens at Corindi.Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey,. 24 OCT 2017
Woolgoolga to Halfway Creek Pacific highway upgrade opens at Corindi.Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey,. 24 OCT 2017 Trevor Veale

Clarence MP targeted over stance on unpaid contractors

THE NSW Opposition have taken aim at Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis over his stance on the fate of 23 unpaid Pacific Highway contractors.

Opposition spokeswoman for Small Business Jenny Aitchison slammed Mr Gulaptis, for his continuing failure to stand-up for subcontractors affected by the Ostwald Bros collapse.

Last weekend the Opposition met with 11 sub-contractors last Sunday who are seeking repayment of $7.3 million owed to them for work completed on the Pacific Complete Project, and action by government to stop similar collapses from happening again.

The collapse has caused business failures, job losses, loss of retirement incomes and houses, and untold distress for so many families, employees and suppliers of the sub-contractors involved.

Ms Atchison said the Government failed to implement the recommendations of the 2012 Collins Inquiry which called for the establishment of trusts to protect subcontractors down the chain.

On radio yesterday Mr Gulaptis appeared to cast doubts on the subcontractors' claims they were owed the money.

"If Ostwald Brothers haven't completed their contract with Seymour Whyte, then Seymour Whyte have no obligation to pay them," he said.

Mr Gulaptis said was too hard for Government to assist the subcontractors because they were "three links down the chain and it's very difficult to administer such a complex contract arrangement".

Ms Atchison said Mr Gulaptis again tried to shift government accountability onto the its delivery partner, Pacific Complete.

"If they failed to do their job, then they should pay," he said.

She said Mr Gulaptis also appeared to be ignorant of some of the key issues in this case, including a recent court judgement which indicated that Seymour Whyte did not pay Ostwald Bros for their July or August payments.

Earlier Mr Gulaptis dismissed claims the dispute could affect his chances at the next State election.

He said the ALP involvement in the matter was pointscoring at the expense of people in crisis.

"If Labor want to play politics with this matter, they're welcome to do so," he said.

"But I think everyone welcomes the jobs these infrastructure jobs like the highway and the new jail bring here."

Mr Gulaptis said it had been the the LNP that brought the highway workers to the region.

"If Labor had been in power then of course this would not have happened, because it (the highway upgrade) wouldn't have happened," Mr Gulaptis said.

Mr Gulaptis also questioned if anyone had determined who was at fault in the Ostwald Bros collapse and if the government, was involved at all.

A spokeswoman for the Wave 5 group, Jo Franklin, said there were clear indications where the money had gone and it wasn't to the failed Ostwald Bros outfit.

"The Supreme Court case last month showed Seymour Whyte hadn't paid Ostwald Bros in August and the judge said they should have, even though Ostwald Bros had gone into liquidation," she said.

"That's one of the things we want to get out there. It's not Ostwald Bros who didn't pay, it's Seymour Whyte."

Ms Franklin also questioned the RMS oversight when signing up contractors.

"The RMS awarded Ostwald Bros a joint venture on August 21, four days before the collapse," she said.

"The tendering process is how long prior to being awarded, several months and months and months?

"What checks were implemented? Did anyone from the RMS communicate with Pacific Complete, Seymour Whyte or Ostwald Bros during this time?"

She said Wave 5 Subcontractors had consistenty questioned why the prequalification/accreditation process did not pick up the weakness of Ostwald Bros.

"Doesn't it require the joint venture to be separately assessed for compliance, to specifically onfirm financial viability?

"Was it not mentioned once during this time that we weren't getting paid?

"Ostwald Brothers must have been credible to be awarded a joint venture at 50 per cent principal right up until four days before the collapse?"

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