Mr COLLINS (Willoughby) [9.02 p.m.]: I raise a matter that involves the collapse of HIH insurance and the consequential effect of that collapse on people in the building industry in New South Wales. I know that this matter has already resulted in statements from members from both sides of the House. This is another story that merely emphasises the need for the Government to understand the full flow-on effect of HIH on good, honest builders such as Mr Malcolm Allen, a constituent of mine, whose company MPA Constructions Pty Ltd operates from Naremburn. Mr Allen has written to me in these terms:
He has provided information that I have passed on to the relevant Minister about his attempt to obtain insurance through Dexta Corporation Ltd. Mr Allen concludes:
We would like to know what action has been taken by you on behalf of thousands of builders like ourselves who have been unable to work since the demise of HIH because we have not be able to secure the necessary Home Warranty Insurance required by the current Home Building Act and legislation effective 1 May 1997, which unless proof of current Home Warranty Insurance is supplied, prevents release from council of approved contract documents and prevents commencement of any work in excess of $5,000.
On 20 March 2001 we received contract approval from our client to commence work on a new job and applied for insurance the same day. More than 12 weeks later we have been unable to commence work because we have not yet been able to obtain the necessary insurance.
The Department of Fair Trading surely investigates a builder's professional competency before awarding a builder's licence so the licence alone should be proof of professional standards. I have been in the building industry for my entire working life spanning almost fifty years and take pride in performing to a professional standard of excellence. I have never had any claim against me for any faulty workmanship or other failure on any project or for any company that I have been associated with. What is so difficult about insuring someone like me (or my company) with such a long and faultless professional record!
That question is being asked by countless builders in this State who are unable to commence work. Mr Allen says:
I note that the Deputy Premier is in the Chamber. I am sure that he, like other members of this House, would want to find ways to help builders like Mr Allen get back into business. We cannot afford to have the Malcolm Allens of New South Wales sidelined. We cannot afford to have their clients sitting, waiting for construction of their houses to commence. It is incumbent on the Government, both at a State and at a national level, to work out a solution to get the builders of New South Wales back to work. This is a man with a fine record. He has never had a serious claim brought against him. This is not a man with a record for faulty workmanship as long as your arm.
A possible remedy may be to enact special legislation wherein building work may proceed for licensed builders, subject to payment by the builder to say the Department of Fair Trading of a premium on a sliding scale proportional to the cover sought, which premium could be refunded when home warranty insurance is finally obtained. If insurance is unable to be obtained because of a bad history of workmanship, the payment would be forfeited and the builder's licence permitting him to build residential premises would be annulled.
On the contrary, this is a man with 50 years experience and an impeccable record. But because he cannot get insurance he and the subcontractors who work for him are sidelined. They are sitting out there: they are non-participating members of our economy. Our State cannot afford that. It is against the Government's interests as much as it is against Mr Allen's interests for him to be so sidelined. I am pleased that the Deputy Premier is in the House to hear about the plight of Mr Allen. I hope that he will pursue this matter with the Premier and the Minister for Fair Trading so that we can find a solution for Malcolm Allen and other builders like him.