Les Williams from WK Civil led the fight to have sub-contractors paid for the work they did for collapsed builder Walton Constructions.
Les Williams from WK Civil led the fight to have sub-contractors paid for the work they did for collapsed builder Walton Constructions. Brett Wortman

Probe shows authorities knew Walton Group was in strife

SUBCONTRACTORS want to know who knew what and when about the state of the Walton Group of Companies in the months and years before it went into liquidation in October 2013 owing $72 million.

They have urged new Housing Minister Leeanne Enoch to do everything in her power to ensure the reasons behind the collapse of Walton Construction are fully understood.

The new Palaszczuk Government has committed to fund a public examination in August of key individuals involved in the collapse, which cost Queensland subcontractors $30 million.

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In a meeting late last week organised by Nicklin MP and parliamentary Speaker Peter Wellington, members of the Subcontractors Alliance made clear to Ms Enoch, representatives of the Attorney-General and the Queensland Building and Construction Commission, that they needed better security of payment protection at law than provided by 2014 LNP Government changes to the Building Construction Industry Payments Act.

A detailed investigation by the Sunshine Coast Daily has revealed that from at least mid-2012 the Queensland Building Services Authority was aware Walton was failing to meet financial reporting deadlines and had breached its maximum allowable turnover against its net tangible assets.

It is also clear that from about the same time the National Australia Bank was aware that despite the amount of work it had secured, Walton was a company in trouble.

Walton at that time was a business re-arranging its affairs, making unrecoverable loans to family trusts and propping up its main Victorian entity at the expense of a profitable Queensland operation.

For all that, at the same time Walton was able to secure key government contracts - in Victoria and Queensland - over July, August and September 2012, worth $64 million.

Walton Construction, headed by sole director Craig Hall Walton, ran businesses in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

He maintained a yacht at Royal Brighton Yacht Club and oversaw renovation in the second half of 2012 of a $1.9 million home - held in the name of his partner, Michelle Lewis - in the heart of Melbourne.

Company records show, despite Ms Lewis's claims to this newspaper that the property was hers, that in July 2012 (around the time it was purchased) Craig Walton drew $32,862 from company accounts to pay expenses relating to the property.

In the five years from May 2007 to July 2012, Mr Walton drew $2.7 million from the business to fund credit card payments and other personal expenditure.

And just months before Walton closed its doors in Queensland - causing subcontractors to lose their businesses, homes, vehicles and in some cases their families - Walton Construction Qld Pty Ltd outlaid $8000 in Suncorp Stadium memberships and a further $9000 for corporate membership of the Property Council of Australia. The company had also budgeted to spend $30,000 on client entertainment and $15,000 on staff entertainment in Queensland alone.



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