The government would land itself in legal hot water if it decided to negotiate with Telstra after the telco appeared to fail to put in a compliant National Broadband Network bid, Shadow Communications Minister Nick Minchin said today.
Minister Nick Minchin
"I think there's a very significant legal issue here," Minchin told ZDNet.com.au this afternoon, following the expiring of the deadline for NBN bids at 12 midday.
"The government needs to seek its own legal advice whether or not the request for proposals document does or does not allow the government to negotiate."
It would take a considerable amount of legal acumen to delve into what he considered to be a "quite a difficult legal issue", Minchin said. If the resulting legal advice indicated that the government couldn't talk to Telstra and if the other bids weren't good enough, the government would be back at the drawing board, he said.
On the other hand, if the advice found that the government could talk to Telstra, a legal conflict was sure to ensure, Minchin said. "Whatever advice the government might get, I'm sure Terria and others will get advice to the contrary," he said, adding that a legal battle was likely in that case.
Minchin didn't blame Telstra for putting in what appeared to be a non-compliant bid, saying the government's failure to clarify regulatory issues "understandably" prevented the company from lodging.
He also believed Telstra's statements about only feasibly being able to reach 90 per cent of the population in an economic manner, saying they had brought what he considered Labor's overblown election promises back to earth.
Minchin stuck with his belief that without Telstra, the process would be a farce. "If you really want competitive tension, Telstra's got to be there. No disrespect to Terria," he said.