INSPECTION: Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Page MP Kevin Hogan, Deputy Nationals Leader Bridget McKenzie and Pacific Highway general manager Bob Higgins at the site of the new bridge at Harwood, the largest structure of the 155km Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade.
INSPECTION: Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Page MP Kevin Hogan, Deputy Nationals Leader Bridget McKenzie and Pacific Highway general manager Bob Higgins at the site of the new bridge at Harwood, the largest structure of the 155km Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade. Jarrard Potter

Subbies not giving up battle to get $7.5mil owed to them

THE sub-contractors owed $7.5million after the collapse of a Queensland construction company have taken comfort from the words of Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack during his visit here this week.

Since Ostwald Brothers went broke late last year, owing more than 20 local sub-contractors $7.5million, a group called the Wave 5 Subcontractors has been battling to find someone to pay up.

One of those voices is Joanne Franklin, whose family-owned business was hit hard by Ostwalds' collapse.

She was glad to see the Deputy PM talking about issues affecting local contractors.

"It seems we've got some movement with Michael McCormack coming here," she said. "It's good to see he's engaging with the local contractors and their issues."

Ms Franklin said she was particularly heartened to hear the Deputy PM support NSW Small Business Commissioner Robyn Hobbs' investigation into the matter.

"While we ultimately want to get our money back, if the investigation can put things in place that stops something like this happening again, something good might have come out of all this," she said.

"While we've been lucky enough to be able to keep going and recover from this, a lot of other people have not.

"A lot of the sub-contractors affected by this have been forced to sell their houses and move away from the area.

"It's not been good. There's been lots of counselling, there's been incidents of domestic violence, people have received bad credit ratings and have not been able to keep their homes."

Ms Franklin said it was hard to say if the group would see any, or even some, of the $7.5million outstanding.

"Treasury says it can't pay twice for the work on the highway," she said. "But we're also taxpayers and we are paying twice for something with this. If the government can get over that hurdle, then we might get somewhere."

She said sub-contractors were excited when the RMS announced its "delivery partner model" for the project.

"The model seemed to make a lot of sense," she said. "It was a very big project and having delivery partners to oversee all the different strands of it looked very sophisticated."

But issues soon appeared.

"They had people doing the work but they were not aware that some of those contractors were not getting paid," she said.

The Small Business Commissioner has been asked to comment on the progress of her investigation but has not responded.



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