Perth Children’s Hospital: WA Government needs to fix the system

Published: 14 Aug 2017

This is what happens in a race to the bottom.

By now we are all just coming to grips with the ineptitude of John Holland as head contractor of the Perth Children’s Hospital

and the process upon which the project was awarded by the Barnett state government.

Lead in the water is just one of a major list of problems associated with what has become a debacle.

It would be easy for the CFMEU to say’ I told you so.’ We have done that already.

The important thing now going forward is to not only identify the problem but to establish what needs to change to make sure it never happens again.

The problem with this project started before it began.

The government tender process which reviewed and appointed John Holland as the principal contractor needs to be completely reviewed by the McGowan state government.

There’s an old saying: ‘If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

’ The original quote from John Holland bore no relation to the final cost, which is still on-going and climbing higher.

Time and time again Holland went back to the Barnett government seeking massive price variations.

Each time they were granted another hand-out, John Holland put more pressure on sub-contractors in order for Holland to keep their own profit margins intact.

With the squeeze on sub-contractors, subbies in turn had to engage cheap unqualified labour, through labour hire companies.

This project had backpackers, students, and foreign itinerants doing unqualified work.

This brings us the second solution which needs to be put in place by the McGowan government.

Legislation to regulate and license the Labour Hire Industry needs to be enacted as a matter of urgency- similar to what has been proposed in Queensland.

Many sub- contractors walked from the project unable to compete.

As each one left cheaper alternatives took their place. This continual squeezing to make profit out of variations created fertile ground for cheap non-conforming products to be used. The take out from all this, is that if the price is too cheap, workers, project quality, the community and taxpayers suffer.

The WA State government needs to do much more in the area of procurement to ensure unsafe, non-conforming products do not reach construction sites.

Last but not least. There is a genuine reason why union built is called quality built. 

Projects which have proper union delegate and safety committee structures in place are better positioned to take on board, represent and act on workers concerns, to ward off any issues and problems as they come to hand.

Hollands IR management of this project gave the worker’s and sub-contractors no voice to air their complaints or suspicions.

They created a toxic atmosphere making it almost impossible for sub - contractors and workers to speak up without the fear of losing their contract or job.

Holland’s recalcitrant response to any pressure by unions about issues as they came up was to simply call in the ABCC and the Police.

And we are now seeing the consequences of their inept management, draconian attitude, and poor governance.

The Children of WA deserved much better.