Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni who met Sunshine Coast subbies with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk this week.
Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni who met Sunshine Coast subbies with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk this week. Patrick Woods

Subbies embrace building industry inquiry

SUBCONTRACTORS will be lining up to give evidence to the Palaszczuk Government-appointed Special Joint Taskforce into construction sector fraud, with confidence high among sector representatives that their complaints will now be fully examined.

Lenny Willis, of the Subcontractors Alliance, was one of a group of industry representatives who met with Housing Minister Mick de Brenni and head investigator, former Justice John Byrne.

He said the Minister had said the word 'collapse' was not the way to describe some insolvencies which appeared to have been planned and could only really be called 'criminal'.

Mr Willis, a property developer, said he had been encouraged that subbies would not be expected to be lawyers and that templates were being prepared to assist them in filing complaints.

That was already a significant change to previous arrangements which had seen complainants file issues with police only to hear nothing except that the matters had been referred onto ASIC without even an interview and no feedback.

"It's not been a helpful process for victims," he said.

"Part of the damage that's been done is a feeling of dismissal and somehow that your accusations have been wrong when you know in your heart otherwise. There's been no explanation and then you have been ignored."

Mr Willis said under the previous regulatory environment with the QBCC, Queensland Police, ASIC and the Australian Federal Police there had been a sense complainants were being stonewalled and dismissed.

He said previously complainants to Queensland Police have not even been afforded an interview to discuss their matters.

"This is an opportunity for that to change," he said.

"Hopefully if it smells like fraud but more evidence is needed they will come back to the complainant and investigate properly.

"We are looking forward to getting into the process to see the level of collaboration that's provided to assist victims make proper complaints, and for the authorities to act."

 

Alison and Dave Daniels were nearly crippled by an unpaid $250,000 invoice in 2015.
Dave Daniels of Daniels Civil Pty Ltd has welcomed the inquiry into malpractice in the Queensland construction sector. Warren Lynam

Dave Daniels, of Daniels Civil Pty Ltd, said he was sure the government meant business.

"I think the Minister (Mick de Brenni) is all over it," he said.

"He feels it and speaks it. He's done enough research into it that it has become a passion."

Mr Daniels said Justice Byrne had helped set the bar and that proof of intent would be critical in pursuit of allegations of fraud.

He said the 12-week initial investigation period would gather complaints with evaluation conducted by Justice Byrne and officers from the Department of Public Prosecutions. Police investigations would then follow, leading to prosecutions that may continue for a number of years.

But he said the time had come for the industry to engage in professional development and to get smarter in its practices.

"Subcontractors need to get their head around the new Building Industry Fairness Act," Mr Daniels said.

"You can't operate on a handshake any more."