Subcontractors fear they won't see a cent.
Subcontractors fear they won't see a cent.

Fight ramps up between construction firm and government

SUBCONTRACTORS fear they will not see a red cent after an indigenous construction firm went into liquidation during a contract dispute with the State Government.

Suppliers and subcontractors are owed more than $500,000 for work done on the soured contract between McKenna Group Contractors and the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships.

The 23-worker firm went into liquidation on Monday after failing to meet deadlines on a government subdivision project at Mossman Gorge last year amid claims drawings provided by the department were riddled with errors.

Billy Bellero is one of more than a dozen subcontractors left in the lurch.

He and his wife operate a small sand quarry in Mossman and are owed $37,000.

"Halfway through people started asking questions but were told it was a government job, so you'll be right," he said.

"The government used to look after contractors, but that doesn't seem to be true now."

A spokeswoman for the department said arbitration had begun between the two parties.

"Subcontractors should make contact with the McKenna Group regarding any unpaid invoices," she said.

Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch has called on the government to pay out subbies and suppliers while the dispute with McKenna is sort out.

"These poor buggers are left holding the can," he said.

McKenna Group managing director Andrew Yeatman said he made the same suggestion to the department months ago but was turned down.

He said he believed the department was trying to drag out the process as long as possible, and doubted the company could hold out until the October 28 arbitration date.

"Nobody can survive that long without a feed," he said.

"What are our subcontractors meant to do before we get to that hearing?"

Opposition indigenous affairs spokesman Christian Rowan said local businesses had been abandoned.

"More needs to be done to create indigenous employment opportunities in Queensland, but the way this project contract has been managed by Jackie Trad's department is a significant setback," he said.