Last week and again this week The West Australian newspaper reported on the fiasco surrounding the non-payment of subcontractors on government and non-government projects. The subcontractors involved are small and medium businesses that are unable to withstand not being paid for their work, which in turn has a profound effect on their employees.
The West Australian reported: “The State Government has cited an aversion to red tape as the reason it has failed to introduce a measure it promised three years ago to guarantee payments to subcontractors when a building firm goes bust.”
Colin Barnett in his ‘Premier Barnett’s Opening of Parliament Statement 2015, on Red tape reduction, stated: “The Government will back business, small and large, by getting out of the way and doing more to cut red tape.
The Liberal National Government has made good progress on streamlining, fast tracking and modernising processes and regulations in: retail; planning; housing; building and construction; hospitality; farming; and mining. This has cut approval waiting times, removed nonsensical laws, and reduced administrative costs for thousands of businesses and residents.
This year, we will continue our reform agenda in a number of areas to ensure small businesses can grow and create more jobs for West Australians.”
Whilst we commend the Government for making “good progress on streamlining, fast tracking and modernising processes and regulations,” we would suggest in this matter it is hiding behind its “aversion to red tape as the reason it has failed to introduce a measure it promised three years ago to guarantee payments to subcontractors when a building firm goes bust,” as a reason for seeming to do little or nothing.
It is reported that with respect to red tape: “Mr McLean and Mr Roberts [of the master Builders Association] both nominated the extraordinary length of time it took some local councils to approve planning applications for housing as a major bug bear for the industry.”
“Time is money,” Mr McLean said. “Everybody is waiting, in some cases for years, for these developments to occur – it’s just ridiculous. In housing, the planning approvals process is the number one priority for us to get right.
“Some builders won’t work in some local authority areas because of the way they process building applications.””
The leader of the Opposition, Mark McGowan is correct in saying a range of things could be done to ensure greater protection and accusing the Government of a “lazy, slack approach”. And, “The government should not just surrender on this.”
It is reported that the Treasurer, under pressure has taken some steps on this week to rectify the situation, “has promised a range of measures to boost protection for subcontractors”, the effectiveness of those measures will remain to be seen.
A report in this issue of the Broadcast states that the ACC will be seeking “to ‘shame’ big companies that squeeze subcontractors and suppliers.”
In a recent meeting with small business people, that was attended by the Minister for small Business, the Treasurer, Mike Nahan, stated that the Government had changed its focus from the big end of town to small business. So far we have failed to see any evidence that is so. Is this fiasco clear evidence that there is no substance in the Treasurer’s statement?