The Optus-led OPEL consortium’s plans to build a $2 billion wireless network in the rural areas have been stuck another political setback, with Telstra being granted access to the federal Government documents concerning the decision to the Optus-Elders joing venture nearly a billion dollars to build the network by the former communications minister Senator Helen Coonan.
The bid for the documents was rejected by Federal Court Justice Peter Graham, but today a full bench of the Federal Court overturned his decision after a joint appeal was filed by the new federal Government and Telstra.
The new documents could provide some legal ammunition to challenge Senator Coonan’s decision to award the tender to OPEL.
A spokeswoman for Optus said that Telstra was trying to generate a confusion and doubt about the OPEL network. However, Telstra has said that it has not even started or even hired staff for the project.
Telstra has consistently maintained that the tender process was unfair to the other tenderers as they were not told that additional funding could be made available. The tender project was the Broadband Connect infrastructures Program (BCIP), which was the rural component to the Connect Australia initiative by the previous Howard government, and was allocated $600 million.
In court, Telstra produced copies about the guidelines for the BCIP that the federal government published in September 2006.
Telstra has praised the decision.