Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Call to Put Banks in Spotlight; Subbies Appeal to Ombudsman

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Call to Put Banks in Spotlight; Subbies Appeal to Ombudsman

Article excerpt

BILL

HOFFMAN

bill.hoffman@scnews.com.au

SMALL Business Ombudsman Kate Carnell has been asked to examine the role of National Australia Bank in the collapse of Walton Construction in 2013, which cost an estimated 1350 businesses more than $70 million.

The Subcontractors Alliance formed after the Walton collapse has written to Ms Carnell urging her to closely examine all aspects of the matter to determine the NAB's potential role in the transfer of Walton assets to two Phoenix companies.

It has asked Ms Carnell to investigate the involvement of NAB in the Walton coll- apse for "knowing involve- ment, knowing receipt and knowing assistance".

Ms Carnell has been directed by Small Business Minister Michael McCorm- ack to look into cases of small businesses severely impacted by the question- able business practices of banks as the Turnbull Government seeks to fend off opposition calls for a Royal Commission into the sector.

Subcontractors Alliance head Les Williams said the collapse of the Walton companies had been a high-profile construction industry pre-packaged liquidation featuring pre-appointment, asset transfers and phoenix activity.

The Alliance wants tested, along with the bank's role, whether some of Australia's largest companies benefited from the collapse at the expense of 600 Queensland subbies and 750 interstate who were never paid for the work they did or the materials they supplied.

The Walton matter was the focus of a 2015 senate economics committee inquiry into insolvency in the Australian construction industry, which found insolvency was costing the sector up to $3 billion annually of which, for each of the past three years, the Australia Tax Office was owed around $640 million.

Prior to the federal election this year The Greens, Labor and the Nick Xenophon Team committed to the Senate inquiry's recommendations which included national security of payment legislation and the trialling of project bank accounts. …

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