HOUSING MINISTER: Tim Mander
HOUSING MINISTER: Tim Mander

Subbies expect fresh inquiry with new appointment

THE Federal Court has appointed a new liquidator to the failed Walton Construction group of companies, a move expected to spark a closer examination of practices in both the building and insolvency industries.

Michael McCann, Graham Killer and Andrew Hewitt, of Grant Thornton, have replaced the team led by Glenn Franklin from Lawler, Draper Dillon, who were removed after an application by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.

ASIC this month successfully appealed the rejection of an earlier bid to remove Lawler Draper Dillon for apprehended bias because of its close business relationship with Walton's business advisers, the Mawson Group.

The Full Court of the Federal Court this week also ordered that Lawler Draper Dillon immediately transfer all books and records of the Walton group of companies to the new liquidators.

Sunshine Coast civil engineer Les Williams, whose company WK Civil lost $700,000 in the Walton collapse for work it did on the Nambour Coles project, said subcontractors were absolutely beholden to ASIC for supporting them.

Mr Williams, head of the Walton Subcontractors Alliance which complained about the original Lawler Draper Dillon appointment as liquidators, said ASIC had listened, investigated and acted. "We've been found to be right,'' he said.

Mr Williams said he expected the new liquidator would draw up a fresh list of witnesses to be called before a public inquiry into the Walton collapse, where they would be required to give evidence under oath.

He said key Walton and Mawson executives were either not called or were not required to give evidence under oath at a hearing run by the liquidators dismissed by the Federal Court.

Sunshine Coast subcontractors lost $2.9m for work done on the Nambour Coles project for Walton.

In its unanimous decision, the Full Court held that because of the liquidators' prior referral relationship with the Mawson Group, who had influenced their appointment as liquidators of the companies, and the liquidator's interest in not jeopardising their future income, they might not discharge their duties with independence and impartiality.



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