Premier reveals judge to head construction crackdown
RETIRED Supreme Court Judge Justice John Byrne will head the special task force into allegations of white-collar crime in the Queensland building industry.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the task force, which comes after News Ltd's Back Our Subbies campaign, would forensically examine the circumstances surrounding the collapse of a number of major construction companies that have left millions of dollars in debt.
Since 2013, about 50 major collapses in the sector have left debts of half-a-billion dollars collectively owed to more than 7000 trade creditors.
The task force will also re-test historical fraud complaints laid with Queensland Police during the past two years.
Michael Caspaney, of Menzies Advisory - the liquidator of Cullen Group and Q1 Homes that left collective debts of $50million - said he would be happy to cooperate if asked any questions by the task force.
Mr Caspaney said his process to engage public examinations of both companies in the Federal Court of Brisbane was already established with funding from the Queensland Government.
"My first reaction is that this will be a very good move forward for the industry in Queensland, knowing what I know about these and other companies."
The Premier said subbies left out of pocket were mums and dads and small business people left "to the whims and mercies of bigger operators who too often leave their subbies in the lurch".
"I have met many of them. I have listened to their stories of hardship and loss and the fact they felt no one is listening," she said.
Justice Byrne was a judge for 28 years and Judge Administrator of the Supreme Court with particular expertise in both commercial and criminal law.
"Justice Byrne will be joined by Queensland Police Service detectives plus investigators from the Queensland Building and Construction Commission and prosecutors from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions," the Premier said.
"I urge anyone who has a complaint about dodgy payments to come forward now and have their grievances heard.
"The non-payment of subbies is not something that stops at the Queensland border, so I have also written to the Prime Minister to have this issue added to the national agenda."
Housing Minister Mick de Brenni said the Palaszczuk Government would continue to roll out building industry fairness reforms that he believed were already helping ensure everyone in the building industry was paid on time, in full, every time.
"I've met first-hand with hundreds of builders and subcontractors whose lives have been torn apart by a broken system - a system broken under the previous LNP government when they removed mandatory financial reporting for the big end of town," Mr de Brenni said.
"The LNP's absurd changes to financial self-reporting opened the door to abhorrent practices in the industry.
"Queensland Labor, with backing from the building industry, is well down the path to delivering strong payment protections.
"We've strengthened the building industry regulator's capacity to investigate company collapses and we've reinstated mandatory financial reporting for the big end of town.
"We've given the QBCC a direct line of sight to companies that may be in trouble.
"And, importantly, should a company try to hide or mislead the QBCC, it can impose a penalty including imprisonment."
Police Minister Mark Ryan said the task force would also consider if there were sufficient and appropriate investigative and supervisory powers to deal with the conduct disclosed in the matters reviewed.
"We want to ensure the powers at the disposal of the police and the QBCC are as strong and effective they can be," he said.
"Only Labor is taking action right now in Queensland to ensure dodgy construction company directors are held to account for their crimes."