Contractors are getting duped and working for nothing

Rockhampton builder and manager at Hotondo Homes Brett Louttit.
Rockhampton builder and manager at Hotondo Homes Brett Louttit. Mike Richards

BRICK layer Mitchell Bettiens is still waiting to be paid for work he did last year.

The Gladstone contractor outlaid an amount that was more than $10,000 working for a Gold coast company building a set of two-storey duplexes between February and May last year.

But the company stopped trading, cancelling their licence, leaving Mr Bettiens to pick up the bill for all the materials and wages used on the job.

He has been to a solicitor, and contacted the Queensland Building and Construction Commission and then state minister for housing Tim Mander but Mr Bettiens has accepted he will never "see a cent".

Now he's asking the State Government to pass reforms that offer an insurance scheme for contractors so they know they'll be paid for their work.

Those who don't pay should be prosecuted, he said. "The solicitor told me that if I went to court I would win the case, but that the court would only acknowledge that I am owed the money," Mr Bettiens said.

"They couldn't force them to pay. People can just cancel their licence and then go open another business under a different name and do the same thing. It's wrong."

Mr Bettiens is one of 2500 registered building contractors in the Gladstone region.

This is a widespread problem that successive state governments have tried to address with some reforms passed last September by the LNP.

This year the state Labor government followed on, releasing a discussion paper calling for feedback on five points; project specific bank accounts, a trust fund scheme, insurance schemes, education and changes at a federal government level.

The State Government has just announced more than $100 million worth of construction works in the Gladstone region following the Community Cabinet Meeting on Sunday.

Housing minister Mick de Brenni said the government wanted to make sure those who work on those projects were paid.

"From the conversations I have been having with (subcontractors) across the Gladstone region over the past three days, I haven't met somebody yet who hasn't experienced not being paid for work or materials...," Mr de Brenni said.

"If you do the work, then you should get paid on time, every time."

Builder and manager at Hotondo Homes Rockhampton Brett Louttit --- who was in town for the round table discussion with minister for housing Mick de Brenni --- says the whole industry needs an attitude change.

"The mentality is to accept the lowest possible price because it's seen as the best value for the client," Mr Louttit said. "That might be the best thing for the client, but is the best for the industry?

"I know builders who are going into a job with negative profit margins… they're hoping to make it up in variations. But who wins out of that? It's the subcontractors who suffer."

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Note: The paper version of this story contained a typing error. It stated the government had announced more than $180 million worth of construction projects, which should have read more than $100 million. We apologise for the error.

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