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SA Premier coopts democracy for nuclear nefariousness

  • 26 May 2016
I was trying to think what the invitation reminded me of. It took me a moment, but then I had it: the Project for the New American Century, the neo-conservative think tank and 'educational' organisation that went on to play a key role in shaping the foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration.

It's a different time and different circumstances, but there was something about this invitation — a joint missive from the Premier of South Australia and the newDemocracy Foundation — that seemed to resonate with that ominous American institution; a sense that democratic ideas such as consultation and partnership were being co-opted for nefarious ends. In the address section of the envelope, in beautiful script, the partnership was emphasised: 'An Invitation from the Premier and the newDemocracy Foundation'.

The gold and black lettered document was an invitation 'to take part in the Citizens' Jury of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission's report'. This Citizens' Jury will take place now that Royal Commissioner Kevin Scarce has handed down his final report, with the primary extraordinary recommendation that South Australia invite high-level radioactive waste from overseas.

According to the invitation, there will be 'a stratified random selection to finalise a jury of 50 citizens right across South Australia'. These 50 will be selected from those who accept the original invitation sent to the sizable number of 25,000.

Participants will be sent a reading list with 'access to information and experts and given the time to reach an informed consensus decision'. The commission has a track record of refusing access to main environmental groups with nuclear expertise, and it seems likely that this tight control will continue.

Just how strictly controlled the process is becomes obvious when it emerges that the task of those 50, during two weekend meetings in June and July, will be to produce 'a short independent guide to help every South Australian understand the recommendations raised' by the report. How such a stringently controlled process can be named 'independent' is anyone's guess. At a later date, once the 'guide' has been set by the first jury, the second, of another 350 people, will be asked to provide feedback.

ABC news dubbed this whole process the Premier's 'public relations exercise', and surely they're not wrong. Scarce has said many times that international evidence has shown that such a project will be able to go ahead only with community support. Yet what we are witnessing has