“A little bit manipulated”

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.”

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4 Responses

  1. In a way, the fact that the jurors feel manipulated is a good sign. It means that they have matured a collettive conscience about the task they are performing. They are interpreting successfully their role in the process

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yoram,

    Given that this was a citizen’s jury on nuclear waste storage, why is it wrong to suggest that there should be balance between the witnesses for the opposing camps? Would you be happy with a trial in which witnesses were only called on one side? Given that nobody wants to see nuclear waste stored in their own back yard, the chances are that the endogenous choices of the jurors would veer towards anti-nuclear campaigners, and that the convenors would need to rebalance this.

    This story, IMO, is a very good example of the need for balanced advocacy to be determined exogenously, rather than relying on the personal preferences of jurors. If jurors have no role to play in the courtroom advocacy process, why should a citizens jury be any different?

    Alex,

    >It means that [jurors] have matured a collective [consciousness] about the task they are performing.

    Good to see the post-Marxist perspective so clearly expressed (in contrast to the polyarchic perspective of the original article and my own commentary). No doubt the subaltern voices will soon achieve a critical mass and rise up and overthrow the elite hegemony illustrated by the aptly named DemocracyCo.

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  3. […] Lawson and Emily Jenke, CEOs of democracyCo which ran the citizens’ jury on nuclear waste storage in South Australia, write in The Mandarin (full […]

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  4. […] allotted bodies were convened to handle corruption in local government, and to consider a nuclear dump in SA. David Van Reybrouck’s Against Elections was published in English and received […]

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