RIPPED OFF: Fitzpatrick Constructions is owed almost $900 from the JM Kelly Group.
RIPPED OFF: Fitzpatrick Constructions is owed almost $900 from the JM Kelly Group. Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay

CQ businessman's trust fading in big construction companies

TONY Fitzpatrick had been wary of the JM Kelly Group in the past having been "stung" before.

The owner of Biloela-based Fitzpatrick Constructions had finished a job with JM Kelly only weeks prior to its October collapse.

Fitzpatrick Constructions was doing a minor clean-up job at Biloela State High School, a job they never received money for.

"It's only $800-$900 dollars - we're one of the lucky ones I reckon," Tony said.

"You still want your money but at the same time I listen to what other people are owed and I think we are pretty bloody lucky."

Like many others Tony had dealt with JM Kelly before, including a separate job at Biloela State School at few years ago, which was worth "quite a few thousand dollars".

JM Kelly had grown a reputation for being slow when it came to paying people and there was no exception when it came to Fitzpatrick Constructions.

"I did a bit of a song and dance, threatened to come up to their office and voice my opinion," Tony said.

"I was getting very frustrated. The poor girl at the office desk couldn't help it - she was only answering the phone so I wasn't getting up her.

"I told her I needed to talk to whoever it was who says he'll ring me back but never does... too many promises and nothing coming through.

"It was a lot of dollars to be missing out on and I just persisted, kept ringing up and then eventually we got our money but it did take a long time."


Building contractor Tony Fitzpatrick assured Ivan Shepherdson that the shed was here to stay.
Building contractor Tony Fitzpatrick (left) is owed almost $900 from JM Kelly. Contributed

Understandably hesitant to deal with the failed builder again after his experience at the primary school, Tony was assured by a JM Kelly employee - who was also innocently caught up in its demise - that payment shouldn't be a drama.

"I'd done the job, put my invoices through and I said to my leading hand on the job 'here's hoping' and he said 'I think it'll be right Fitzy, it shouldn't be a drama'," Tony said.

"The next thing he rang me up and said 'have you heard what's going on', I said 'nope' and he told me.

"He was out of a job himself and was all apologetic and said he'd never saw any of this coming... he was an employee for them.

"I started thinking they'll be some people fairly well burnt a lot more than me.

"When I saw some of the dollar values some companies are owed I thought 'that's bloody crazy'."


The ALDI construction site was bare today after tradespeople walked off the job after JMK Kelly went into liquidation.
The ALDI construction site in Rockhampton was a high-profile casualty of the JM Kelly collapse. Shayla Bulloch

While an outstanding bill of close to $900 was nowhere near crippling for Fitzpatrick Constructions, it didn't make for an ideal situation.

"We can certainly handle it but it's more of a principle thing - that's our money so give it to us," Tony said.

"It frustrates you when you didn't even want to do the job because you're a bit worried about JM Kelly and what happened in the past.

"I don't know what's going to come out of it... I'd love to see (the money) but I have no idea."

While Fitzpatrick Constructions is not short of finding work at Biloela and surrounding areas, the whole JM Kelly experience has made Tony less trusting when it comes to dealing with major building companies.

"This goes on so often. I wish the government could do something about theses companies that can just go bang, go broke and move on and start up again under another name," he said.

"That's what frustrates me. You'll see they have a wife or someone else and everything is in their name.

"So the money is secured elsewhere and contractors and employees don't get paid."