This is utterly scandalous. The Department of Innovation has refused to tell the Australian Financial Review how much taxpayer support has been given to the car makers Toyota, Ford, and General Motors over the last decade.
Struggling to sell cars and cutting staff, Holden last year was promised an extra $275 million, while Ford was given at least $35 million in handouts. Over 10 years each company could have received $1 billion.
The reason that the department refused the AFR’s freedom of information request is one for the records. The information would not “contribute in any meaningful way to informing debate on a matter of public importance.” Well, I think taxpayers could be the final judge of that. Nevertheless, the refusal to explain how our money is being spent is, itself, perhaps far more revealing.
The IPA has been a long opponent of taxpayer subsidies for the car industry. Here’s a few samples. In the Sydney Morning Herald, Tim Wilson wrote that car subsidies are like a “reverse Robin Hood” – robbing from the poor to give to the rich. In the Drum I argued that car subsidies are an “irrational, wasteful, pointless, politicised corporate welfare program“.
UPDATE: Finance Minister Penny Wong says the decision to not release the information about taxpayer funds was made by the department, not politicians. Hard to see why that is supposed to be comforting. So public servants get to decide what information would “contribute in any meaningful way to informing debate”?