Federal government, auto industry take newspaper to court over documents

The federal government and auto manufacturers took a national newspaper to court in an attempt to suppress details relating to car industry subsidies.

The Australian Financial Review reported yesterday that the Industry Department had requested the paper not publish details released by the department following a Freedom of Information request. 39 documents were released, including sensitive information about support given to auto manufacturers, in what was described as a “clerical error”.

Today the AFR reports that Ford and General Motors have joined the government’s attempts to keep the details, including briefing notes and memos by Industry minister Greg Combet, from being published. GM has instructed barrister Richard Lancaster, SC, to help keep details of its dealings with the government a secret.

The Industry Department’s barrister told the Supreme Court that publication of the documents would hurt the Australian auto industry.

“There is a reasonable apprehension the commercial value of the information in those documents would be destroyed or diminished if disclosed,” said Lachlan Gyles, SC.

Meanwhile, Ford, the weakest performer of the three companies manufacturing cars in Australia, has suspended production at its Broadmeadows factory. It was been reported earlier in the year that automotive components makers have factored Ford’s closure into their operations.