RIPPED OFF: Ken Webster and Geoff Ward are among a number of former Laguna Whitsundays employees still owed a combined $900,000 in superannuation entitlements.
RIPPED OFF: Ken Webster and Geoff Ward are among a number of former Laguna Whitsundays employees still owed a combined $900,000 in superannuation entitlements. Matthew Newton

Laguna Whitsundays owe $1m in unpaid superannuation

HAVING just turned 70, Ken Webster should be starting to relax, but Mr Webster, who retired in 2012, is still owed $31,584.26 in superannuation by his former employer, Laguna Whitsundays Resort Pty Ltd.

And he's not the only one.

Now, three and a half years after the resort closed its doors for good, The Guardian can reveal Mr Webster and other former employees, are owed nearly $1 million in superannuation by the company.

Laguna Whitsundays Resort Pty Ltd, under the directorship of former Victorian of the Year David Marriner, closed its doors on February 21, 2012.

On April 5, 2013, the company went into liquidation after the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) began legal action to recover unpaid tax.

Starting work at the resort as a purchasing officer in 2006, Mr Webster was operations manager when it closed in 2012.

Despite numerous attempts by him and fellow employees to chase up their owed super contributions with the ATO, the tax office has so far been unable to recover any superannuation from the company.

Hope is now dwindling that any of these former employees, some whom are now entering their retirement, will ever see the money owed to them.

In fact, one former employee has even died without receiving his superannuation payments.

According to Townsville-based liquidator Dennis Offermans' latest statement of accounts, lodged with ASIC on April 30 this year, the company now owes 57 creditors a total of $3,227,571.

A spokesperson for the liquidators said of that $3.2 million, $900,000 - nearly a third of the company's total debt - related to unpaid employee superannuation, made up of $630,000 in unpaid superannuation and $270,000 in interest.

Mr Webster believes while the appropriate paperwork returns were made to the ATO, the funds were never forthcoming.

"(And) there did not seem to be any follow up by the ATO to make sure these payments were made," he said.

Frustrated by the lack of action from the ATO, Mr Webster wrote to Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen earlier this year.

Mr Christensen then forwarded the letter to Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

The Assistant Treasurer's Chief of Staff, Martin Codina, responded to Mr Webster after speaking with the man in charge of the ATO, Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan.

Mr Codina wrote: "The Commissioner considers it unacceptable for employers not to pay their employees' superannuation entitlements and explained that wherever possible, the ATO will work with employers to assist them to meet their obligations", adding "a number of firmer collection strategies" were available.

Meanwhile Mr Christensen said he would write to the Assistant Treasurer again, to request that, through ASIC, the former Laguna Whitsundays directors be investigated to determine whether they were trading while insolvent - which could render them liable for any debts.

He also said "the whole sorry tale" should serve as a reminder for people to be vigilant regarding their superannuation payments.

Mr Webster said the unpaid superannuation and lost interest, which he now estimates to total around $60,000, would make a huge difference to his family's quality of life.

"(My wife and I) wouldn't have to worry," he said. "Just knowing that the money is there to fall back on… it would give us some peace of mind."

A request for comment was forwarded to Mr Marriner, but the Guardian was directed to talk to the liquidators instead.


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