FILE IMAGE. Dave Noonan

JM Kelly collapse leaves Rocky business high and dry

CONTRACTOR Bruce McAlister worked for JM Kelly for more than 40 years and says he did "millions and millions of dollars of work" for the company.

When the group of companies collapsed last year, McAlister and Burford, a Rockhampton-based business which specialises in painting, rendering and waterproofing, was owed "a couple of hundred thousand".

The company chases commercial contracting work between Townsville and Bundaberg and has 20-30 employees.

The collapse of the JM Kelly Group hurt, but over the years Mr McAlister says he made a lot of money so overall, "it wasn't that bad".


SURPRISE SURPRISE: Colourmatch painters Rob Cvorak and Richard Henriksen busy with the interior of the North Bundaberg home.
Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail
PAYING THE PRICE: Rockhampton-based business McAlister and Burford are owed "a couple of hundred thousand”. Mike Knott BUN030713PNT2

"It's not as if it was a shock. JM Kelly had been in trouble for a lot of years," he said.

50 builder collapses, subbies owed $500m

"A lot of builders do, they're always robbing Peter to pay Paul.

"The problem is you have to keep working with them, you're on the merry-go-round.

"I think the guys who are new in business would feel it a lot more.

"We survived it because we've been established for a long time, but if you'd only been in business for five years you'd be in all sorts of trouble.

"The older ones can handle it a bit more ... if you don't have the resources you're in strife."

Bruce McAlister is an "old hand" and says he's had a similar thing happen about 10 times over the years and it's a matter of "just sucking it up and getting on with it".

He said the State Government was taking steps to address the risk to smaller contractors and the rules were changing completely.

"They have to start somewhere," he said.

"It needs to be fixed ... but the number of bank accounts (those bigger companies) would need to have...

"It's going to be an administrative nightmare.

"We could see it coming, but I don't think pulling the licence was a smart way to go.

"That's a decision I don't agree with.

"When a company is in trouble, the first thing they do is pull the licence and then we're all in trouble.

"As long as they had the work, you can pull out eventually."

Mr McAlister and his company are now getting on with the job.

"You just have to spread your wings a bit further and chase the work," he said.

"That's business."

Former JM Kelly director Geoff Murphy has previously expressed his regret at the impact the JM Kelly collapse has had on businesses.

He understood many subcontractors and suppliers had suffered losses arising out of the decision to place JM Kelly in administration and for that he was deeply sorry.