Government fights to keep Philip Morris costs secret
14 March 2018: The Australian government has appealed a directive from the Australian Information Commissioner to release the total legal costs in the Philip Morris tobacco plain packaging ISDS case. Although Australia won the case, it took over four years and Australia reportedly spent $50 million in legal costs. As we have previously reported, both the proportion and the total costs were blacked out of the final decision in that case, and the government has refused to release the details.
In February, the Australian Information Commissioner gave the Federal government 28 days to release the total legal costs, or lodge an appeal. That directive followed a long FOI battle waged by Senator Rex Patrick (NXT). Senator Patrick described the Department of Health’s appeal to prevent the disclosure of the costs as a ‘delaying tactic’. He is worried that the rebranded ‘Comprehensive Progressive’ Trans-Pacific Partnership, which contains ISDS, could lead to other ISDS cases against Australia with huge costs. He said ‘Hiding relevant information from the parliament is not a good tactic. I’ll be keeping an eye on how much the taxpayer ends up paying for this AAT appeal, too.’