‘Milestone’ building reforms put money in subbies’ pockets
Security of payment for construction tradies has sparked a political stoush in the lead-up to the October Queensland Election, with the LNP claiming a suite of Industry Fairness Act reforms and a $167 million stimulus is too little too late.
On Wednesday, July 15 the State Government passed a number of "milestone" reforms to the Act which aim to stop those who rort the system and ensure the state's 240,000-plus building and construction workers are paid on time, every time.
The changes include a simplified Project Bank Account framework, now called Trust Accounts; greater prosecuting powers for the Queensland Building and Construction Commission; and greater transparency in the certification process.
LNP Shadow Minister for Housing and Public Works Michael Hart said while the opposition supported the Bill, it was too little too late and accused Labor of "dragging its feet" on its election promise to bring security of payment for Queenslanders.
To date, the Project Bank Account regime had seen funds for head contractors and subcontractors held in three trust accounts until payments are due, but had previously only applied to government projects valued between $1 million and $10 million including social housing, police stations and schools.
From March 2021, this security measure will be progressively rolled out across the state's $46 billion industry to all eligible construction projects valued at more than $1 million.
The Daily's Back Our Subbies campaign, led by reporter Bill Hoffman, highlighted the issue of non-payment to subcontractors and revealed about 50 major collapses in the industry since 2013 have left debts of half a billion dollars owed to more than 7000 trade creditors.
Following the campaign the State Government appointed a Special Joint Taskforce to investigate dodgy operators in the building industry.
"We've worked hard with industry to design a simple system where progress payments and retention funds are held in trust and can only be paid to people who perform the work," Queensland Housing and Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni said
"One thing we did hear loud and clear was that industry needs time to adjust before we implement a new trust account framework that is intended to apply to all eligible Queensland construction projects valued at over $1 million, particularly as many are facing the unforeseen impacts of COVID-19."
Building Industry Fairness Act additions include:
•A simplified Project Bank Account framework, now called Trust Accounts,
•Greater prosecuting powers to the QBCC to investigate false statutory declarations,
•More ways for builders to recoup moneys owed, including charges on land and payment withholding requests on financiers,
•Greater transparency of the certification process to increase consumer confidence,
•More effective regulatory powers for the Boards of architects and engineers, improving confidence in the standards of safety and quality of the built environment,
•A statutory review into the role of property developers, including their workplace practices, in the construction industry.
Mr de Brenni said payment security would encourage tradies to make further investments in the local economy, such as buying a new ute or taking on another apprentice.
He said the Palaszczuk Government had been rebuilding confidence to the building and construction industry since 2015.
"Since Campbell Newman and the LNP gutted building industry regulation, the Palaszczuk Government has taken great strides to ensure Queensland subcontractors and tradies are paid in full, on time, every time," Mr de Brenni said.
"When the Palaszczuk Government introduced the Building Industry Fairness Act in August 2017, we made it clear we were not going to accept late and non-payment or put it in the 'too hard' basket."
Mr Hart said the LNP strongly believed Queensland builders and subcontractors-contractors deserved to be paid on time, every time.
"The Palaszczuk Labor Government hasn't taken this issue seriously and have been dragging their feet since 2015," Mr Hart said.
"Labor has only rolled out a fraction of what they said they would.
"It will be eight years from what was a Labor election promise to overcome non-payments of subbies until the full implementation of the Project Bank Accounts are completed.
"Late payments and non-payments of Queensland tradies remains an ongoing concern in the building and construction industry, under Labor."
Mr Hart said the LNP had already committed to a Royal Commission into the industry if the LNP won government on October 21.
"It will investigate non-payment issues, fraudulent practices, false statutory declarations, illegal phoenixing activity, and company collapses," Mr Hart said.
"More than 245,000 Queenslanders are employed in this multi-billion dollar industry.
"It is crucial subbies are paid on time, every time because local economies and communities depend on it."