Re: I hope there are penalty clauses
@Cpt Blue Bear
I agree, costs can most certainly go up. And that is why any contractor that has "had anything to do with running big long term projects" will make their best efforts to account for reasonable cost increases and potential issues.
A project like the NBN is of course a very involved one and the business of laying fibre and copper both in new trenches and through existing Telstra conduits and pits is sure to be full of nasty surprises. HOWEVER, this is what Visionstream does; this is how they make money. It is not as though laying fibre is new to them and I find it unlikely that there is any circumstance of that job that they have not seen before. It is their responsibility to ensure that they correctly estimate their costs and that their bid accurately reflects those estimates.
Of course, the Government should also be responsible for assessing the details of the bid and deciding if it represents a reasonable accounting of the likely costs.
I may not run projects quite this large but anyone who has been involved in bidding for contracts will know what it is like to lose out to a competing bidder that you know is significantly underestimating its costs (either deliberately or through incompetence/inexperience). We know our costs and we are experienced enough to identify potential issues that might increase those costs.
I have also been involved in assessing bids that have been submitted and advising the project leaders, from a technical standpoint, whether the bid seems reasonable.
Any project (at any scale, really) can be beset by bad luck - either in unpredictable events/circumstances or predictable events being of significantly greater magnitude or concurrency. These types of risk will always exist and it is up to the contractor to assess the risk and to either increase their price to cover it or take that risk on themselves in order to offer a lower, and thus more attractive, bid.
Sometimes, of course, it is simply down to inexperience and I certainly have been involved in projects that ran not insignificantly over budget due to issues that, in hindsight, should have been foreseen and accounted for. That is a learning process and more likely to happen in smaller companies. Visionstream is not a small company, nor are they contracting for work outside of their area of expertise.
That's not to say, of course, that Turnbull isn't playing it up. He is a politician so we must assume that he is, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a point.