NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (right) speaks as NSW Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey looks on during a press conference on planned major road safety measures in Sydney, Tuesday, February 6, 2018. Premier Gladys Berejiklian's Road Safety Plan will crack down on speeding, drink and drug-driving, driver distraction and fatigue to make NSW roads safer. (AAP Image/David Moir) NO ARCHIVING
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (right) speaks as NSW Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey looks on during a press conference on planned major road safety measures in Sydney, Tuesday, February 6, 2018. Premier Gladys Berejiklian's Road Safety Plan will crack down on speeding, drink and drug-driving, driver distraction and fatigue to make NSW roads safer. (AAP Image/David Moir) NO ARCHIVING DAVID MOIR

Pavey accuses opposition of using subbies for politics

NSW Roads Minister Melinda Pavey has accused the opposition of using the plight of 23 North Coast families who were unpaid for work on the Pacific Highway upgrade for base political purposes in parliament Monday.

The comment came after member for Maitland Jenny Aitchison asked the minister whether her comments on ABC North Coast last week on the issue were both "heartless and arrogant."

Ms Aitchison said Ms Pavey's comments were "Let's put it into perspective, it's 0.15 per cent of contracts affected on the Pacific Highway."

In her response Ms Pavey said what the Member for Maitland didn't say in her question was the statement was a 15-second response in a 15-minute interview.

"What is heartless and arrogant is the member using those families for base political purposes. That is what is heartless," Ms Pavey said to the howls of opposition members.

Ms Pavey said she was concerned in meetings with the subcontractors was that many of them said they did not sign up to the securities of payments legislation, which the Government introduced because they feared that they might not get other work if they signed up.

"That is the root cause and branch problem," she said.

Ms Pavey maintained that the RMS had done its due diligence and the work it needed to do with Pacific Complete and Seymour White and had fulfilled its obligations. She said it was only after Ostwald's had not paid after five to eight months that the issue came to the government's attention, and as soon as that happened Ostwald's went into receivership.

She continued to say that the NSW government had not walked away from the affected subcontractors having engaged the NSW Small Business commissioner and ensured that tax office demands on the companies affected were put aside until the issue was resolved.

"However, it is also about ensuring integrity for the taxpayer. We do not throw money around like confetti, as those opposite expect us to do," she said.

"We are a good Government renewing this State, and we will continue to work with those subcontractors until the issue is resolved."

The question came after opposition leader Luke Foley asked Premier Gladys Berejiklian why the government had not implemented the recommendations of the Collins inquiry into construction industry insolvency, which he said if implemented would have saved the 23 businesses.

In her response, which was frequently interrupted by opposition interjection, the Premier stated that the government was working hard to support those small businesses that have had the wrong thing done to them by the contractor, and that the government had paid the contractor.

"Within 100 days of coming to office in 2011 we ensured that all government agencies had to pay their bills within 30 days or face being hit with penalty interest," she said.

"If there is more to do, of course, we will do it, but from day one this Government has strongly believed in supporting those businesses that support us in building infrastructure and delivering services."

The house voted against to afford priority to an opposition motion for members to express concern for the 23 North Coast businesses who are out of pocket $7.3m for work done on the Pacific Highway and for the government to ensure the businesses were paid.