Hope from the ashes

Posted February 15, 2016

Peter Wellingotn and family

PIC: Nicklin MLA Peter Wellington, pictured with his family, has been praised for standing up for subcontractor rights in the Queensland Parliament.

An organisation has emerged to represent a 450,000-strong section of the Australian business community with the expected incorporation this month of the new national Subcontractors Alliance.

The Queensland-based alliance was spawned out of the collapse of Walton Construction in October 2013.

Alliance chairman Les Williams said Walton Construction owed 600 Queensland subcontractors $30 million and the national figure was as much as $70 million involving 1350 subcontractors.

Mr Williams, a former part-owner of Sunshine Coast-based WK Civil, is owed $696,000 and has taken it upon himself, with the help of three others, to form an alliance that will better protect the rights of subcontractors under State and Federal legislation.

It’s a massive undertaking for 66-year-old Mr Williams, secretary Kylie McIlroy plus board members Juanita Gibson and Graham Cohen.

They have created a network of like-minded subcontractors who see the need for an alliance to better represent them on state and national levels.

They also lodged a detailed submission last year to the Queensland Government, which was seeking consultation from the community ahead of new legislation applying to subcontractors.

Queensland subcontractors fall under two acts, the Subcontractors Charges Act (Qld) of 1974 and the Building and Construction Industry Payments Act of 2004.

The latter was amended by the Campbell Newman Government in 2014, legislation Mr Williams wants to see repealed.

“The changes made by the LNP to the 2004 Act failed to fairly represent subcontractors, while we want to see the legislation from 1974 modernised,” he said.

Mr Williams said he had sold his business and was on a mission to right the wrongs suffered by subcontractors.

“It’s a nasty industry at times … there are threats,” he said.

The alliance has been working closely with Queensland Housing and Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni and independent MP and Speaker of the Queensland Parliament Peter Wellington.

Mr Wellington holds the seat of Nicklin on the Sunshine Coast where Mr Williams lives and has actively campaigned on behalf of subcontractors.

The four alliance members also attended a Senate inquiry last year delving into insolvency in the construction industry.

The findings of that inquiry and recommendations can be found at: www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics/Insolvency_construction/Report

High on the list of priorities in 2016 will be to lobby MPs ahead of the federal election later this year.

“We represent over 450,000 subcontractors and will be speaking with parliamentarians and candidates about where they stand on the major issues confronting us,” Mr Williams said.

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