Over the past 12 years, General Motors Holden pocketed $2.2 billion in federal government handouts. The figures, released by Holden following a legal tussle to prevent the publication of confidential documents about subsidies accidentally released to The Australian Financial Review, work out to around $150 million a year. Last year, Holden Australia made a profit of $87 million -- about half the average amount it receives in subsidies each year.

Holden says the figures demonstrate its ongoing value to the Australian economy. The company defends the subsidies, providing figures that show it has spent $32.7 billion in Australia over the 12 years, including $5.9 billion on wages. The largest portion of Holden's investment in the country is its spend on suppliers of $21 billion over 12 years, suggesting many smaller Australian companies have benefited from taxpayers' largesse. Company chairman Mike Devereux said: