Law changes good news for subbies but “more action needed”

The changes to the WA Bill to better protect subcontractors is a major step in the right direction, but other state and territory governments – along with federal authorities – need to “step up”, says former Chair of Subcontractors WA and founder of payments platform ProjectPAY, Louise Stewart.

“The WA government is a trailblazer in implementing statutory trusts but more needs to be done,” said Stewart, who has advocated for fairer treatment of subcontractors for more than two years, and worked with WA Attorney General John Quigley who was an active participant of the WA state government’s Industry Advisory Group, which resulted in the Fiocco Reports and recommendations.

“For over 50 years, no government has acted to deal with the unlawful and unconscionable treatment of subcontractors in the construction industry in Australia,” Ms Stewart said. “Around 82 per cent of the construction industry is made up of subcontractors, many of them small and family-owned businesses. But for too long, nobody has bothered about them and they’ve suffered ongoing issues of late payment and high levels of non-payment. It has decimated many small businesses.”

Ms Stewart added that the technology will also play a crucial role in helping implement the statutory trust requirements and to provide more access to working capital, saying, “WA’s new Security of Payment Act presents an opportunity to transform the dynamic, but it is not going to be achieved through legislation alone.”

Ms Stewart previously won an innovation award in 2018 for the payment platform ProjectPAY. The platform was developed to protect subbies’ payments, in accordance with proposed new trust legislation in WA, which will ensure that funds are siloed per project and that claims/invoices are linked to payments. The platform will also link into the new low-cost adjudication services being introduced to WA at the end of the year.

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