Special Joint Taskforce
The building and construction industry is critical to Queensland’s economy, contributing $46 billion in 2018–19 and employing approximately 240,000 people.
The Queensland Government has led significant reform to support this industry, including setting up the Special Joint Taskforce on 27 March 2019.
The Taskforce investigated allegations of fraudulent behaviour relating to subcontractor non-payment in Queensland’s building industry, and considered whether existing investigative and supervisory powers are sufficient for managing that kind of behaviour.
Following a 3-month investigation period, the Taskforce provided its report to the Minister for Housing and Public Works, Minister for Digital Technology and Minister for Sport.
The Taskforce asked for confidential submissions about allegations of fraudulent behaviour relating to building subcontractor non-payment. It accepted submissions by email, post, online and in person from Wednesday 27 March 2019 until 5pm Friday 17 May 2019.
During the submission period, the Taskforce received 166 submissions, with 146 involving complaints of non-payment. Another 20, mostly from industry organisations, gave suggestions for reform.
The Taskforce also held face-to-face meetings with 42 people across the state.
Report findings and recommendations
The Taskforce investigations led to the referral of 108 possible breaches of legislation to nine different prosecuting authorities. The Taskforce also made 10 recommendations about delivering more effective enforcement by the building industry regulator; ensuring the integrity of industry participants, and greater collaboration among regulators.
The Taskforce also found that the existing supervisory powers of the building regulator, the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC), are generally enough to address fraudulent behaviour relating to subcontractor non-payment.
The Taskforce’s recommendations were based on the following key themes:
- More effective enforcement—Some legislative provisions may not operate as intended, constraining the QBCC’s ability to target offending behaviour and to mount successful prosecutions.
- Licensing—Gaps in the current licensing process may allow inappropriate individuals to enter the industry.
- Unfair contract terms—A concern among subcontractors and the organisations that represent them is that subcontractors are not operating on a level playing field with head contractors and have limited ability to negotiate contract terms that balance the rights and obligations of the parties.
- Education—A lack of understanding of relevant laws, contractual obligations, and business, financial and contract management means that subcontractors can fall victim to poor payment and contracting practices.
- Greater transparency and information-sharing—There can be more collaborative enforcement between the QBCC and other agencies, as well as information-sharing to assist subcontractors in making informed decisions.
- Statutory declarations—False statutory declarations about subcontractor payment are not unusual and greater deterrence is needed.
Government response to the report
The Queensland Government considered the Taskforce’s report and accepted the recommendations.
Five of the Taskforce’s recommendations are implemented through amendments in the Building Industry Fairness (Security of Payment) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2020, which received assent on 23 July 2020.
The remaining recommendations will be implemented through a combination of regulation and administrative changes.
About the Taskforce
Retired Supreme Court Judge the Honourable John Byrne AO RFD headed up the Taskforce.
He was joined by:
- detectives from the Queensland Police Service
- investigators from the QBCC
- prosecutors from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The Taskforce reported directly to the Minister for Housing and Public Works, Minister for Digital Technology and Minister for Sport. It was established within the Department of Housing and Public Works.
Terms of reference
The Taskforce’s terms of reference required it to:
- invite and investigate matters and complaints provided through confidential submissions (in person and/or in writing) in relation to allegations of fraudulent behaviour relating to building subcontractor non-payment;
- where the material discloses evidence of possible breaches of legislation, refer that material to the relevant prosecuting authority;
- consider if there are sufficient and appropriate investigative and supervisory powers to deal with the conduct disclosed in the matters reviewed; and
- provide recommendations to the Government by 30 June 2019.
- Last updated:
- 29 November 2019