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  Issue No 50 Official Organ of LaborNet 14 April 2000  

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Guest Report

Colin Hollis on Parrish Meats

Extracted from Hansard

The South Coast MP this week dumped a bucket on the owners of the abbatoir which went into receivership owing workers thousands.

 
 

Colin Hollis

Parrish Meat Supplies Pty Ltd was an abattoir located at Yallah in my electorate and established in the 1950s by Mr Sid Parrish Sr. Last August, the firm became insolvent. Some 120 workers who had made a fortune for the directors of Parrish Meat Supplies were left high and dry by the directors, particularly Mr Colin Stanley Lord and Mr Sidney Kenneth Parrish. Parrish Meat Supplies established a transport and administrative arm of its operations through another company called South Coast Bulk Carriers Pty ltd. The current directors include Mr Ken Parrish and previously included Mr Colin Lord, with the latter retaining a substantial shareholding.

South Coast Bulk Carriers Pty Ltd is located at the Parrish Meat Supplies site at Yallah and, very interestingly, shared its employees with the related firm. South Coast Bulk Carriers employed a dozen people, mostly transport and some administrative workers. South Coast Bulk Carriers is a firm that is hollow in every sense: it has no assets and went into liquidation at the very time that Parrish Meat Supplies also went down the tube. Naturally enough, in this murky, putrid world of corporate set-ups, another company was established under the name of Obnora Pty ltd. This company shares the same registered address as both Parrish Meat Supplies and South Coast Bulk Carriers, again at Yallah.

Now the directors list becomes more interesting because it includes director Mr David Daley and others from Daley & Co. They are accountants with a presence at Port Kembla and Wollongong. Daley & Co provided accountancy services and previously audited accounts for both Parrish Meat Supplies and South Coast Bulk Carriers.

Another director ob Ebnora is one Mrs Janice Marree Paton, whose additional responsibility was company secretary for Parrish Meat Supplies. Obnora Pty ltd was a secured creditor of Parrish Meat Supplies at the time of insolvency. It claimed around $1.8 million. Obnora Pty Ltd assumed the role of secured creditor following the very clever and timely departure of the Westpac Bank. Obnora's directors, including the Daley & Co accountants, claim to have shovelled into the ailing Parrish Meat Supplies $1.8 million following the departure of the bank. A Mr John Star acted as a receiver for Obnora at the time of Parrish Meat Supplies' liquidation. This man was the chief architect of the deed of company agreement presented to the workers at the end of 1999 proposing that the workers accept as little as 30 cents in the dollar for their statutory entitlements.

Mr John Star, coincidentally, also acted as administrator for National Textiles in Maitland. These 30 cents in the dollar deed of company agreements appear to be his specialty. Parrish Meat Supplies, South Coast Bulk Carriers and Obnora Pty ltd are indeed a cosy family business in every sense of the word. The directors of Parrish Meat Supplies, Mr Colin Lord and Mr Ken Parrish, son of Sidney Parrish, are cousins. Ms Janice Maree Paton, the company secretary and slavish director of Obnora, is the sister of Mr Colin Lord. Mr Lord's and Mr Parrish's offspring are also involved in the family's wider corporate interests, including positions in the trusty family trust arrangements.

The Lord and Parrish corporate empire is quite extensive, including publishing with ownership of the South Coast Register, the Bay Advocate, the Yass Tribune and the Leader. Other interests include Direct Acceptance and Direct Credits. There is also involvement in car dealerships: Frank Bode Motors and Kinghorn Motors of Nowra. There is also an interest in manufacturing firms Southern Kitchens and High Sierra.

In 1993 the Australian Securities and Investment Commission successfully prosecuted the directors of two Lord companies, Direct Acceptance Corporation Limited and Drum Reconditioners Pty Ltd. The prosecution resulted from the misuse of position by the directors seeking advantage from a firm under liquidation, which was Drum Reconditioners. Mr Raymond Lord, Colin Lord's brother, was jailed as a result of this prosecution. In addition, the Direct Acceptance Corporation Ltd also went bust, owing more than $50 million. Another director of DAC was one Mr Terry Scanlon.

The plain picture that builds up from an assessment of the Parrish Meat Supplies' corporate structure and directorships that are held clearly indicate so much conflict of interest, so much paper shuffling, so many hollow, worthless companies and proven past illegal activities. The story now gets even worse, as there is clear evidence that a number of government agencies have refused to dig deep into the corporate sham and expose these murky and putrid dealings which I remind you have left 120 workers and their families with just a pathetic portion of their statutory entitlements.

I start with the Australian Taxation Office. I formally wrote to the ATO seeking an investigation into the whereabouts of superannuation entitlements of the Parrish Meat Supplies workers. On 15 November I received a reply which was worthless. More troubling is that recently the ATO received correspondence from the liquidator of South Coast Bulk Carriers demanding that the $43,000 that had been paid to the ATO immediately prior to the wind-up be returned to the workers in accordance with the Corporations Act's preferential payments clause. In effect, this $43,000 held today by the ATO should be returned to the workers who under the law have the preference of this payment before the ATO. The ATO, in its usual sensitivity, has stated that the commissioner must first be satisfied that the workers are entitled to this $43,000, but in addition that the workers must initiate legal proceedings against the ATO to obtain a court order to secure the $43,000. This is an outrageous demand by the ATO. That money is the property of the workers and must be handed back to them immediately.

The ASIC, despite its success in the past, is at present indicating unwillingness to further investigate the circumstances prior to the liquidation of Parrish Meat Supplies and its associated companies. Previous companies directed by Mr Colin Lord and Mr Ken Parrish have a habit of collapsing, leaving a trail of debt behind them, but the ASIC indicates that it does not intend to investigate these events further and that there is no further role for the agency in this particular case. The ASIC need only examine its own records on the current extracts for organisations and the historical personal name extract and it will find a list of companies as long as the Hume Highway with references such as 'externally administered' and 'de-registered'. How the ASIC, a corporate watchdog, can allow Mr Colin Lord in particular, a serial cracker of corporate structures, to get away with this type of corporate tyranny is imply beyond my understanding. It truly defies logic.

Now there are questions for the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business to account for. The minister will remember the Parrish meatworkers. After all, he gave them a whole two minutes of his time while at a cabinet meeting in Nowra recently. However, what the minister must explain is a letter forwarded to each of the Parrish Meat Supplies workers by his department dated 13 October 1999. The department correspondence, signed by the director of the department's Employment Assistance Monitoring Unit, asked the employees about a traineeship or apprenticeship under the New Apprenticeships program. In part, the correspondence states:

This traineeship or apprenticeship was partly funded by the department... We would like to know if the traineeship has worked for you and whether you now have a job, are studying or are doing something else. This is not to check up on you personally but to see whether the assistance you received helped you.

It was an easy survey for the workers to complete. They need only answer in the negative to each question. I want to read part of a statutory declaration into the record because this traineeship program was a fraud. This declaration is provided by one of the workers and reads:

During the month of March 1999 my employer advised me that I was required to sign a form relating to a training program. I was told that unless I signed the form I would not have a job here. I was not told by my employer that by signing this or any other form I would no longer be employed by either Parrish Meats Supplies or South Coast Bulk Carriers. I was unaware that by signing this form I would be employed by FSO Group Employment and Training. I was not aware that I was signing an application for a traineeship as a 'new labour market entrant'.

The workers declaration goes on:

A few weeks before the termination of my employment at the Parrish site I was again required to sign a form relating to training but was not advised by my employer that this was another Traineeship Application which would change my employer from FSO Group back to my original employer. A few weeks later Parrish Meats Supplies and SCBCC went into liquidation.

What happened to this funding by the department? How much funding was provided? Has there been a certification from the company that received this funding that the requirements of the funding have been met? If not, why not?

Foods Safety Operation Pty Ltd is a group training and employment company which presented a proposal to the Parrish companies that would effectively shift their entire workforce into a traineeship scheme. The traineeship scheme that the workers signed up for was one specifically intended for new labour market entrants-that is, employees who have worked for their current employer for fewer than six months. As I have already indicated, many of the Parrish workers have worked there for over a decade. Therefore, the only way that the traineeship and other subsidies could be accessed was by shifting the existing workers to the FSO group.

From March 1999 to the close of June 1999, workers received pay slips and group certificates indicating very clearly their employer to be FSO - not Parrish Meat Supplies or South Coast Bulk Carriers. As the declaration I have just read into the record indicates, workers were then shifted back into the Parrish Meat Supplies operation by the FSO by the signing of a second form. Here we have a clear case of fraud against the Commonwealth. We have correspondence received by employees seeking an evaluation of their training. On the other hand, we have employees signing and swearing that they received no training and that they were threatened with the sack if they did not sign these forms - not once, but twice. We have a case of half-smart shifting of workers from Parrish Meat Supplies into the Foods Safety Operation and from the FSO back into Parrish Meat Supplies.


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