May 25, 2016

Subbies push for change in Federal election – Subcontractors Alliance column

Subbies push for change in Federal election –  Subcontractors Alliance column Subcontractors Alliance chairman Les Williams

by Les Williams

The Subcontractors Alliance will be seeking support for the implementation of recommendations of a senate committee report into Construction Industry Insolvency.

The Alliance  will be lobbying all political parties and individual candidates contesting the July 2 federal election to accept 44 recommendations.

The report cited ‘harsh, oppressive and unconscionable commercial conduct  … and a growing culture of sharp business practices’ as major problems surrounding the non-payment of subcontractors.

The report’s executive summary also said,  ‘Of these recommendations, two mark a sea change in the Commonwealth’s role in regulating payment practices in the construction industry. The first of these is the recommendation that the Commonwealth enact uniform, national legislation for a security of payment regime and rapid adjudication process in the commercial construction industry”.  

There’s plenty of history.

Over 144 years ago on 22 February 1872 Mr E Lewis wrote to Brisbane’s Courier Mail complaining about the non-payment of building tradesmen and workers and the lack of protective legislation. He referred to those builders and politicians who failed the industry as “Men of Straw” .

Roll forward to 1996. The Queensland government commissioned an inquiry into Security of Payment. The commissioner reported serious problems with non-payment of subcontractors and receiving threats during the inquiry to have his report shredded if he recommended using trusts.

The Hansard records make sobering reading. They say: “Four peak industry bodies sought direct interference by the Premier – the report was never tabled in parliament … hundreds of copies shredded as threatened … the report consigned to archive and hidden behind Ministerial privilege.”

The minister was subsequently removed and the resultant watered down legislation proved meaningless, with 8000 industry small business insolvencies in Queensland since.

The serious questions that need serious answers are who and what influences the political “men of straw” to continually erode the rights of 85 per cent of Australia’s construction industry and small business community?

We will keep you informed of progress with lobbying efforts.

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