The Adelaide news website InDaily has a report by Bension Siebert about discontent in the ranks of South Australia’s citizens’ jury on nuclear waste storage:
Some members of the 350-person jury have told InDaily they voted for a group of witnesses to present information about nuclear waste storage but the facilitator of the process, DemocracyCo, subsequently invited additional witnesses without explicit jury consent.
DemocracyCo concedes it did add further witnesses after a voting process, but says that is “standard practise” in citizens’ juries.
Juror Brett Aylen, an architect, told InDaily: “I do feel like I’m being a little bit manipulated by the process.” He said DemocracyCo facilitators were surprised by the jury’s witness selections and wanted to “balance it up by adding in some of the more pro-nuclear witnesses”. “They seemed a bit surprised at our selections,” he said. “If they had have declared that position in advance [that more witnesses may be added] it would have been more acceptable.”
The article is worth reading in full. Overall the story has a feel of a parody in the way the process plays out exactly in the predictable way: (1) the establishment sets up the whole process, promising the public and the jurors that it empowers the citizens to make independent decisions, (2) at an early stage, the jurists make a decision that displeases the establishment, (3) the establishment immediately changes the rules and overturns those decisions, (4) the establishment comes up with various transparently mendacious excuses for their manipulation, ranging from the distinguished and reserved:
DemocracyCo CEO Emma Lawson said extra witnesses – three in total – were only added in order to better in inform jurors on subjects about which they themselves had expressed interest,
to the blunter comments by Business SA CEO Nigel McBride who said that anti-nuclear views were overrepresented in the process:
“People do get upset because their fringe ideas aren’t always represented … by witnesses,” McBride said. He said anti-nuclear organisations had been reluctant participants in the stakeholder reference group. “DemocracyCo have done a very, very good job in the circumstances.” DemocracyCo had played “very much a straight hand” and remained neutral facilitators of the process.
“The whole process … isn’t simply one based on what the jurors have to say,” he said. “If [DemocracyCo] believe there’s major parts of the evidence that have been left out they have discretion [to add them in]. “All of us wanted to see them (the jurors) get the breadth of information.”