Personal injury lawyers set up deliberative democracy workshop on CTP insurance

Personal injury lawyers set up deliberative democracy workshop on CTP insurance

Personal injury lawyers dissatisfied with the ACT government's citizens' jury on compulsory third party insurance are setting up their own deliberative democracy workshop on the future of the scheme.

A group of Canberra law firms, including Blumers, Malliganis Edwards Johnson, Slaters, and Maurice Blackburn, will pay a consultant to run a workshop on the ACT's current common law, at fault scheme, after concerns the government-run jury was "flawed".

18-year-old Isabella Buckley from Griffith and 73-year-old Mark Dickerson from O'Connor brought their perspectives to the CTP citizens' jury last year.

18-year-old Isabella Buckley from Griffith and 73-year-old Mark Dickerson from O'Connor brought their perspectives to the CTP citizens' jury last year. Credit:Sitthixay Ditthavong

But the consultant running the project has denied it is a rival citizens' jury.

Instead, she wanted the process to "complement" and "value-add" to the process already under way.


"We're using the citizens' jury as a starting point, but we're looking to garner stories," Nicole Seils of CNS Projects said.

"The reason I took this on is because I believe views about going through the current system can be better captured."

The six-hour workshop will be held in Canberra on February 28.

Running the deliberative democracy workshop will be Dr Wendy Russell, an associate at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the Australian National University and head of Double Arrow Consulting, a Canberra firm that specialises in two-way engagement.

Ms Seils said the law firms have had no contact with Dr Russell, so as to not undermine the integrity of the process.

"Wendy is entirely independent. She tells me what the process needs to be from a deliberative democracy point of view, and she'll be the lightning rod on the day. She doesn't report back to the client, she reports back to me and I've been asked by the client to ensure the process has integrity," Ms Seils said.

Invitations to participate in jury have gone out to 32 people who've made claims through the scheme. Anyone who had made a claim was barred from participating in the government's jury for fear they would influence the other jurors in a certain way.

Ms Seils said the law firms provided them with a list of more than 100 names, which they whittled down using a randomised selection process "to make sure there was no fettering of the list to land a certain outcome".

There will be several "observer positions" available on the day to representatives from the Chief Minister Treasury and Economic Development Directorate and the law firms.

Ms Seils said the workshop would not be open to the public, to protect the privacy of the participants.

She accepted that could open the process up to criticism but said it the focus was making it a "safe space" for participants.

The session will begin with participants speaking in a "popcorn format" in a circle, sharing their experience with the current CTP as they felt comfortable with "no hot seat", Ms Seils said.

The participants will then be asked what they believe the jury formulating the new CTP scheme needs to know, taking into account the priorities the jury identified last year.

The learnings from the day will be compiled in a written report, which will be publicly released on March 12.

Ms Seils said she hoped the government saw the workshops as a "genuine effort to get Canberrans' voices on the record".

"The citizen's jury has done good work - we're hoping to value-add," Ms Seils said.

"I believe to get a good out you need the rich advice and learnings from people who've gone through the process.

"There's a richness of experience here that can't be tampered with. These people have gone through things and their emotions are really important to capture. I hope their experience helps the jury define the nuance of the models. "

​The government's citizen jury last week came under fire after an independent report from a deliberative democracy expert found the close involvement of expert decision makers in the jury's deliberation stages risked undermining the autonomy of jurors.

ANU Associate Professor Dr Ron Levy also 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".

However Dr Levy commended the exercise as worthwhile and recommended the practise of deliberative democracy continue, but with changes.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr criticised the autonomy of the report as it was prompted by questions from the ACT Law Society. Dr Levy maintains his work is independent.


Me Barr told the ACT's parliament on Tuesday he planned on legislating a new scheme before the end of the year.

The jury and stakeholder group will meet for the final time next month.

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.

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