The citizens' jury that will decide the future of the ACT's compulsory third party insurance has come under fire, after an independent report raised concerns that the autonomy of jurors had been undermined.
Research by Australian National University Associate Professor Dr Ron Levy found the ACT government's framing of the existing CTP scheme favoured abandoning the status quo, possibly undermining "the key rationale of creating a citizens' jury as an arm's-length decision-making body".
Canberra Liberals' leader Alistair Coe said Dr Levy's report cast a shadow on the idea of deliberative democracy.
"The fact that the citizen's jury was not properly conducted is an insult to the people who participated in good faith. Like on many issues, the government tried to manufacture its preferred outcome," Mr Coe said in a statement.
"The government has tarnished deliberative democracy through this process and Canberrans will rightly be sceptical of any future process undertaken by this government."
Dr Levy said the close involvement of expert decision makers in the jury's deliberation stages risked undermining the autonomy of jurors, and jurors did not have enough time to get a good grasp of the subject matter.
The research was prompted by questions from the ACT Law Society, but was conducted independently of it.
ACT Law Society president Sarah Avery said they "had long been concerned about a number of aspects of the jury process".
"These concerns include that vital information was not made available to the jury and that the information that was provided was selective," Ms Avery said (although Dr Levy found there was insufficient evidence to rule whether information provided to jurors was incomplete or misleading).
"The Law Society is sadly not surprised that many of those concerns have been validated in the independent expert report undertaken by Associate Professor Dr Ron Levy. The ACT Law Society remains of the view that CTP is too important an issue to be dealt with in a flawed, pilot process."
A spokesman for ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said Mr Barr "reiterated his confidence in the citizen's jury process, pointing to recommendations made in the research that the concept of a citizen's jury is a worthwhile exercise".
The ACT Greens also remained supportive of the jury.
Greens crossbencher Caroline Le Couteur said given what she had seen unfold during one of the information sessions, she believed the jury would come to a verdict unswayed by any preconceived ideas of what the scheme should be.
"The Greens have been very supportive of citizen's juries and we remain very supportive of this one in particular. I note the main finding of the review that the planned series of citizen's juries was worthwhile and should be continued and we're totally on board with that," Ms Le Couteur said.
"I went to a half-day session and it was really impressive. I wouldn't have written the introduction to it but be that as it may the people [were] exposed to all points of view and it hasn't been prejudged. The only thing that's been prejudged is that it's been a worthy topic for a citizen's jury.
"We do however note the comments that were made about how the citizens' jury was sold, if you want to use that word, to the people of Canberra. We did have some early concerns this wasn't the most exciting topic for a citizens' jury and I think possibly that is reflected in how the government felt it needed to be sold."
The stakeholder reference group and the jury will meet for the final time next month.
A model will be chosen later this year. The ACT government vowed to uphold the decision of the jury.