WORK on Watpac’s troubled Townsville Stadium project must be halted while the state government launches a full and independent investigation into the use of unlicensed contractors on major stadium works.Last week the Queensland Building and Construction Commission stopped contractor PJ Walsh continuing work after finding the company doing unlicensed work. In our view this means any work performed at the stadium by the contractor to date is not covered by a builder’s warranty, and safety and structural integrity cannot be guaranteed.
What is extraordinary is it took only 2 hours for an associated company to be issued with the relevant licences and for work to resume – a process that would normally take about three weeks, CFMEU state secretary Michael Ravbar said.
“This is not proper process. At its best it is rubber stamping an unlicensed contractor after the event; at its worst it is a cover-up … and one that has occurred without conducting engineering checks of the major structural work the contractor has already performed.”
“The dodgy process and the subsequent cover-up not only warrants urgent investigation, and also raises serious questions as to how many other unlicensed contractors are working on this major state government project,” Mr Ravbar said.
“Watpac’s gross mismanagement of this project has been a disaster from day one, yet regulators appear more determined to conceal major failures than to address the cause of the problem. This is why the project has been beset with instances of sham contracting, underpayment and failure to abide by Best Practice Principles set out in the Queensland government’s procurement policy.”
“Watpac has reported losses totaling nearly $90 million over the past two years, and the sudden departure of chief executive Martin Monro yesterday fueled more speculation in the industry about its financial strength. Meanwhile workers on the ground and the taxpayers of Queensland are left hanging out to dry,” he said.
Mr Ravbar said that Minister Mick de Brenni – the third Minister to have oversight of the stadium project – must intervene immediately and order a full and independent investigation and engineering assessment.
CFMEU regional coordinator Kane Lowth said unlicensed work had been performed on a government project on a grand scale, “raising serious questions about both the quality of the work and the safety of the public.”
“There have been no penalties, and no investigation or assessment of previous work. Where the hell is the oversight?”
“The bureaucracy sat on its hands while workers were being underpaid and forced into sham contracts, but bend over backwards to protect cowboy contractors,” Mr Lowth said.