Industry leaders are calling for 86 recommendations in the Australian Building and Construction Commission review to be enfored immediatley.
Industry leaders are calling for 86 recommendations in the Australian Building and Construction Commission review to be enfored immediatley. Sam Giles

Unpaid, in ruin, lives destroyed: 86 ways to stop the rot

PAYMENT security for construction industry subcontractors Australia-wide is set to become a reality following the release by the Turnbull Government this week of an Australian Building and Construction Commission review.

The Review of Security of Payment Laws, chaired by John Murray, was handed to the Government before Christmas last year.

It included 86 recommendations aimed at bringing payment certainty to every level of the construction industry contractual chain and came after a series of high-profile insolvencies had left small businesses unpaid hundreds of millions of dollars.

The industry accounts for between 8-10 per cent of national GDP and employment but 25 per cent of company insolvencies.

Fairfax MP Ted O'Brien said the sniff test on those numbers, which were first brought to his attention by Subcontractors Alliance head Les Williams, of Coolum, said something had been wrong.

"Sometimes when you open the Pandora's Box, it can be painful in the short term," he said of adjustments to come for how the industry operates.

That pain may weigh lightly against the suffering, loss and trauma experienced by subbies left unpaid and with their businesses in ruins.

Mr Williams, whose group successfully lobbied the Palaszczuk Government ahead of it bringing in the Building Industry Fairness Act last year, said harmonised legislation across all states was essential to bring certainty to the sector.

But he said the recommendations would need to be implemented in full because each delivered an integral part of the outcome.

Mr Williams has campaigned for the industry to be better regulated since the 2013 collapse of Walton Construction left Sunshine Coast subcontractors unpaid nearly $3million on the Nambour Coles development.

Alliance member Juanita Gibson, of Ballina, who sat on the working group assisting Mr Murray said the recommendations could not be cherry picked if they were to be effective.

She said the Queensland legislation lined up similarly to what the federal review now recommended.

"We've been around the victims and seen the trauma," Ms Gibson said. "There is now a very clear understanding of the issues. The Federal Government now needs to lead by acting on the review's recommendations.

"It's quite scathing. We have a problem. Lives are being destroyed. Now we need to make sure it is not lost in the politics."

Small and Family Business Minister Craig Laundy said, for operators in the sector, delayed and disputed payments could make or break them.

"As legislative responsibility for security of payment rests with the states and territories, the government will work cooperatively with them," he said.