Wednesday 18 November 2009
OF PAYMENT BILL 2009 (No. 78)


Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam President, this is a classic and predictable division of opinion over this bill.  On the one hand we have the contractors and the subcontractors that stand to gain by having some security that they will be properly paid for their work, and on the other hand are organisations who represent those who employ the contractors and subcontractors such as the Master Builders Association.  A quote that did stand out for me from the Master Builders Association submission was:

'We are very concerned that if this legislation is passed into law it will not overcome the problem for which it is being enacted and it will cause immense problems for the building and construction industry to such an extent that some excellent practitioners will be forced from the industry.'

The association went on to argue that the concerns it has raised, along with the Housing Industry Association, have not been addressed.  The Master Builders Tasmania also states that the final altered draft bill has not been made available to the industry for comment.  It insists that the scheme to be introduced by the bill is unworkable and that the Government has failed to address serious issues of equity and access to the normal principles of justice.

I was not sure whether a hearing from the HIA would be pursued in respect of this debate and whether the Leader might enable us to hear from the HIA.  I am  wondering whether that was on the Leader's agenda.  He might explain that.  I would be interested to hear what they have to say. 

Then we have the opposing view of the contractors and the subcontractors, Madam President, and there is no doubt that they both need greater security of payment than the present situation.  I have had representations from a lot of contractors and subcontractors, and no doubt others have too, expressing their view.  In fact it has been quite a campaign to communicate with us their thoughts about what has been happening.  I appreciate very much the experience that the member for Huon has brought to the debate with his involvement with the HIA in years gone by and also his deep understanding of the situation in the building and construction industry at this time.  Anyone who keeps half an ear to the concerns of the building industry has heard the stories of contractors and subcontractors missing out on payment when construction companies get into financial difficulties. 

I remember only too well a builder who in years gone by went bankrupt and changed the name about three times and left people in the lurch each time and moved on as if nothing had happened. 

Mr Dean - Got away with it. 

Mr FINCH - And got away with it.

Mr Harriss - This bill does not address that, does it?  That is the tragedy.

Mr FINCH - I think that we do not want that sense in the industry or that they are going to be treated as badly as they were in times gone by.  Adrian Cowie, who is still here with us, made a strong presentation to us.

Mrs Rattray-Wagner -  He has done a good job, hasn't he?  He has done a really good job to stay with us. 

Mr FINCH - The executive officer of the Master Plumbers Association of Tasmania did mount a strong case for this bill and in saying that the issue of the security of payment was explored by the Cole Royal Commission, which strongly supported the introduction of security of payment as a means of ensuring that the problems associated with slow or non payment are overcome. I will quote from the presentation that we had from Adrian.

'Our members, all small business, have suffered millions of dollars of losses over the years and it is most unfortunate that there is no system of coordinating the statistics, the true value of the impact that this issue has on small business; especially in Tasmania where we don't have the same critical mass as say Qld or WA …'

He says that the present lack of security over payment for construction goods and services suffocates innovation, inhibits investment in plant and equipment and stifles employment opportunities for young people.  There are some quite compelling arguments there. 

Madam President, the two opposing arguments are predictable.  On the face of it I tend to favour the position of the contractors and the subcontractors.  They are the lifeblood of Tasmania's construction industry.  Most of us have seen them facing difficulties when payments are held up, or not made at all, from construction companies and developers, so I am, Madam President, going to support the spirit of the bill.