Telstra arms itself with sensitive OPEL documents

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Telstra arms itself with sensitive OPEL documents

After a six month legal fight, Telstra has won access to sensitive legal documents that explain the previous Government’s decision to award OPEL $958 million in funding to build its $1.85 billion broadband network in the bush.

Telstra is hoping the documents will shed light on why the Howard Government awarded the funding to OPEL and increased its initial Broadband Connect Infrastructure Funding from $600 million to $958 million.

The increase angered many of the other parties involved in the bidding process as they were not given a right to reply and adjust their proposals according to the extra funding.

"This is a good outcome because it may take us one step closer to knowing what went on behind closed doors, and then being able to assess whether more formal action is warranted" said Telstra's Group General Counsel, Will Irving.

Telstra has been pursuing the release of the tender details since August last year when it took former ICT Minister Helen Coonan to court after she refused to release documents that could explain why her government altered the financial size of the funding.

Telstra finally achieved its breakthrough this week when a full bench of the Federal Court overturned an October ruling that denied the telco access to the documents. The Government has now been ordered to hand them over before March 10. A hearing on March 17 will consider the release of additional documents that may prove more sensitive.

If the documents reveal clandestine dealings, Telstra may plan to use them to launch further legal action to challenge Senator Coonan's decision to honour the Howard Government’s OPEL tender.

Although OPEL has started building the new network, the consortium, which is also contributing $917 million to the project, is still to receive any Government funding almost eight months after it was awarded the contract.
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