Families owed more than $7 million for work done on a state roads-building project are being torn apart by financial ruin, including the loss of their homes, while the Liberal-National Government refuses to accept responsibility and pay them what they are 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 today at the invitation of NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley.

Mr Foley raised the issue in State Parliament this week asking three questions of Premier Berejiklian and her Infrastructure Minister Andrew Constance who refused to explain their failure to help the families.

In their hour-long meeting, representatives from the 23 family-owned businesses rocked by the collapse of Ostwald Brothers in August 2017 told Mr Foley of the anguish caused by the Liberal-National Government’s 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. Ostwald was in turn subcontracted by Roads and Maritime Services, the State Government’s roads agency to work on the project.

But 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.

Pleas to the Government and in particular Roads Minister Melinda Pavey to honour its pledge to pay the subbies have gone unanswered. Instead Minister Pavey has offered them free business coaching and a phone number to call the Australian Tax Office to request a delay on tax payments.

Quotes attributable to NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley

“The treatment of these families by the Berejiklian-Barilaro government is nothing short of shocking.

“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.

“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.”

“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.”

Quotes attributable to Shadow Small Business Minister Jenny Aitchison

“The Roads Minister has to stop blaming the victims for this failure by her agency, and her partners to show due diligence in the administration of these contracts.”

“The Roads Minister needs to help these small businesses instead of blaming them for not being paid.”

“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.

“When Labor questioned the Government on these issues in Parliament on Thursday, the Deputy Premier and Minister for Small Business was laughing at suggestions these sub-contractors should be helped.”

“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.”

“In typical Liberal National fashion, they are there for the ribbon cutting, but they are no help when things go wrong.”

“This week in Parliament the Berejiklian Barilaro Government have been congratulating themselves on the Pacific Highway Project. It’s an absolute disgrace.”

“After more than 8 months of promises and inaction, the Premier demonstrated she has completely forgotten these subcontractors, and is completely unwilling to help them.”

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