VACANT: Little activity at Ostwald Bros. Dalby.
VACANT: Little activity at Ostwald Bros. Dalby. Michael Doyle

Foley backs unpaid Ostwald subbies in financial ruin

OPPOSITION Leader Luke Foley has described the money owed to Northern Rivers families for work completed on the Pacific Highway upgrade as a scandal.

With more than $7m owned, Mr Foley said these families are now in financial ruin and he blamed the Libreral-National government for reusing to take responsibility and pay them what is owed.

Eleven sub-contractors affected by the collapse of a government-appointed company to work on the upgrade of the Pacific Highway in Northern NSW travelled to state parliament following an invitation from Mr Foley.

"The treatment of these families by the Berejiklian-Barilaro government is nothing short of shocking," Mr Foley said.

"If the Government doesn't do anything to resolve this then I will take it to the next election.

"These businesses did the right thing by turning up for work and doing the job that they were contracted to do - now it's time for this Government to do the right thing by them and pay them what they are owed."

>>>RELATED STORY: 'We've been blacklisted': Contractors speak out over Ostwald

In their hour-long meeting, representatives from the 23 family-owned businesses rocked by the collapse of Ostwald Brothers in August last year told Mr Foley of the anguish caused by the failure to pay the money owed to them.

The businesses had worked on grading and digging the Ballina to Woolgoolga section of the Pacific Highway and had been sub-contracted by Ostwald Brothers, which went into liquidation last year owing $7.3 million.


NSW Opposition leader and Labor leader Luke Foley.
NSW Opposition leader and Labor leader Luke Foley. contributed

Eight months on and countless pleas to the state government later, the affected businesses have yet to receive a cent, forcing some out of business, while others have laid off staff.

Mr Foley was also told that one man had been forced to seek work in Northern Australia in order to keep a roof over the family's head.

"It is a scandal that they are more than happy to squander billions of dollars on Sydney stadiums but Gladys Berejiklian can't find it in her budget let alone her heart to pay these people," he said.

"The Premier and her Roads Minister have effectively washed their hands of these hard-working people. It's the Liberal way - hard-working families are always the ones to lose out."

>>>RELATED STORY: Subbies owed $7.5 million draw line in sand with government

Pleas to the Government and in particular Roads Minister Melinda Pavey to honour its pledge to pay the subbies have gone unanswered.

The Shadow Small Business Minister Jenny Aitchison said Roads Minister Melinda Pavey needed to stop blaming the victims for the failure.

"The Roads Minister needs to help these small businesses instead of blaming them for not being paid," he said.

"The Minister's comments that the loss of over $7 million for 23 subcontractors needs to be 'put into perspective' is a complete betrayal of these people, their families and their communities.

"The Government says they are supporting small business and regional communities but this project has been an epic failure for 23 sub-contractors, their families and communities."

During Question Time in parliament earlier this month, Premier Gladys Berejiklian spoke on behalf of Ms Pavey

"Through advice from her (Minister Pavey)...she is working to resolve the issue as soon as possible and will consider what else can be done, and of course we've also established a working group with relevant NSW agencies to consider options to strengthen contract and project management processes in road projects such as this one," she said.

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