Sub­bies get watch­dog for State con­tracts

The West Australian - - PROPERTY - PETER MILNE

The treat­ment of sub­con­trac­tors and small busi­nesses on State Gov­ern­ment projects will be po­liced by the Small Busi­ness Com­mis­sioner un­der new leg­is­la­tion tabled in State Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day.

Small Busi­ness Min­is­ter Paul Pa­palia said the fo­cus was on the con­struc­tion in­dus­try but the Com­mis­sioner could also in­ves­ti­gate other sec­tors, such as re­tail, where small busi­nesses were be­ing hurt.

The Small Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion will set up an in­ves­ti­ga­tions unit aimed at cor­po­rate and gov­ern­ment be­hav­iour and un­fair prac­tices.

The unit will con­duct ran­dom in­quires as well as tar­geted in­ves­ti­ga­tions based on tips from other agen­cies and com­plaints from sub­con­trac­tors.

The Com­mis­sioner will be able to com­pel head con­trac­tors for State Gov­ern­ment projects to prove they have paid their sub­con­trac­tors and rec­om­mend po­ten­tial sanc­tions and im­prove­ments to pol­icy.

“The fo­cus of the cor­po­ra­tion is to main­tain strong, pos­i­tive work­ing re­la­tion­ships for busi­ness in WA,” Mr Pa­palia said.

“This Bill rep­re­sents decades of work from in­dus­try stake­hold­ers and the Small Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion who have pushed re­lent­lessly for jus­tice for sub­con­trac­tors.”

In De­cem­ber a re­port by bar­ris­ter John Fiocco found a power im­bal­ance be­tween head con­trac­tors and sub­con­trac­tors and the “con­trac­tual chain” of money pass­ing from top to bot­tom cre­ated greater risk for those at the bot­tom. It came af­ter a se­ries of high-pro­file col­lapses of build­ing com­pa­nies last year, in­clud­ing Cooper and Ox­ley, York Civil and ArchiApps.

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