Book – Government Contracts: Federal, State and Local (7th ed)
Author: Nicholas Seddon
Publisher: The Federation Press
Reviewer: Ryan Nattrass
The seventh edition of Government Contracts – Federal, State and Local is an appealing text for both front-end and back-end practitioners, alike. It provides a comprehensive and well-researched consideration of the practical application of legal principles to government contracts from cradle to grave. It should also appeal to those of us who practise outside the commercial and administrative law space but, nonetheless, need to consider the availability of action against the Crown under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and Australian Consumer Law.
As expected from the title, the text necessarily traverses the topics of contract law, commercial and consumer law, and administrative law. It does so in clear and accessible language. The text builds upon the reader’s presumed knowledge of the ordinary rules of contract and administrative law and focuses on the more specific and unique issues that arise in relation to government contracts. In this respect, it is not a text for those looking for a refresh of general principles.
At the outset, there is analysis of the issues arising at the formation of a contract, including the tendering process (and potential challenges to decisions arising out of that process) and the imperative to identify the correct legal entity, whether that entity is the Crown, a corporation, or something in between. A consideration of common terms in government contracts is also provided, such as termination for convenience clauses and the tension between contract law’s need for certainty and constitutional law’s rule against fettering future government action.
In respect of performance and breach, there is discussion about the extent to which the Crown’s immunities may extend into contract and whether they apply to private bodies contracting on behalf of the Crown. Finally, in terms of remedies, there is exploration of the extent to which the traditional private law remedies, such as estoppel, might be available against government. Similarly, the availability of administrative law remedies to contractual or commercial decisions is investigated.
On the whole, the book is an interesting analysis of an area of law that can sometimes be dry. It manages to provide a comprehensive consideration of key issues, and relevant case law, without overwhelming the reader.