A less-than-neutral process

Valerie Bainbridge writes: Re: Manufacturing consent for SA’s nuclear program (Friday). Thank goodness, Benito, you have laid out exactly what I have recently experienced and have added valuable information regarding the composition of the group managing the process. I have been surveyed by telephone, attended one of the public information sessions and last night was invited to participate in a Focus group. Everything that you have outlined has been central to the process used to conduct the sessions I have been party to.

The information session was a glossy PR exercise with only “experts” from the nuclear industry available to talk to individuals. There was no group discussion where the interested public could exchange views and inform each other without the structure of the controlling organizers. The survey was highly structured and certainly nudged in the direction of the “amber” option.

The focus group was all female, all highly educated with predominantly a science or health professional background. Two of us were educators. The session nudged towards the amber option and when I challenged the weighting of one of the questions, the facilitator was highly defensive and promised to offer a different option after we had dealt with the structured question. Needless to say she never did.

A more intriguing aspect of the process was we were informed that we were being observed through a two way mirror by State Government and Industry observers but were not invited to meet these people. The session was videoed to, “help the facilitator write up her report”. Two of us (older members) were “red light” advocates. The remainder drifted to the “amber option”. Mission accomplished. A very disturbing and depressing outcome. We were each given $70.00 “incentive payments”. I will be donating mine to an environmental group.

I drove nearly 50kms to attend the session, in the evening, because I left the UK over 40 years ago to escape the effects, particularly for my two young children, of living next to Sellafield in the UK, a nuclear installation with significant high-level nuclear waste, stored above ground (the current first stage option of the SA government proposal) and still awaiting a suitable site for disposal. The greatest incentive was because I believe opposing voices need to be heard. Needless to say I felt it was a fruitless exercise because of the structured process used, as described by you, which could only, I believe, result in the outcome that had already been decided, i.e. “amber light”.

One last comment; we were told we were not allowed to discuss the content of the session. I don’t believe I’ve contravened that caveat. If I have so be it.

In defence of George Brandis (really)

Richard Cobden writes: Re. “In defence of George Brandis” (Friday). I don’t think that the question of how to refer in longer form to s. 44(iv)of the constitution is as straightforward as Soula Papadopoulos suggests.

From the beginning of Federation the High Court has somewhat sidestepped any pitfalls, using the form sec. (or s.) 44(iv), 75(v), etc. However, in the very first case reported in the Commonwealth Law Reports (1 CLR 1) Chief Justice Sir Samuel Griffiths (a principal author of the Constitution) described the sub-numbered parts of sec. 73 – which are lettered (i), (ii), (iii) – as “paragraphs”, and in Webster’s case in 1975 Chief Justice Sir Garfield Barwick called s. 44(v) itself a “paragraph”.

True it is that in the tailpiece to s. 44 there is a reference to “subparagraph (iv)” (a similar cross-reference is in s. 93), but none of that has dissuaded the High Court from describing numbered or lettered items as “paragraphs”. Also, in the Australia Act 1986, the country’s most recent basic constitutional document, a recital refers to “paragraph 51 (xxxviii) of the Constitution” (not, as Soula would have us do, “subsection”). And finally, the usual convention these days in Commonwealth statutes is to refer to units lettered (a), (b) etc as “paragraphs”, and those lettered (i), )ii) etc as subparagraphs.

Surely the result is that all forms are equally good when referring to 44(v): section, s., sec., paragraph, subsection and – dare I say it – even subparagraph.

Van Badham is right, Clinton is the only progressive choice

Andrew Whiley  writes: Re. “Rundle: sorry, Van Badham, but Clinton hasn’t been left-wing since the ’90s” (Friday). It seems like my old friend Van Badham has caused a wee flurry of consternation at Crikey.

Guy took time out from his achingly real descriptions of American despair and desolation to describe “that” Guardian piece as being “celebrated, by men and women alike, as the single worst take of the US election campaign”.

Having read omnivorously over many long months from “left” “right” and “centre” on the US campaign, Guy is well off the mark, notwithstanding his invoking of ‘force majeure’ in voting choice.

Having seen in the last few years Hillary blamed by parts of the right and left for near every foreign policy ill America has ever committed, these criticisms feel like just another in a very long and sometimes tiring line.

Van is right to posit that some of the scorn heaped upon Hillary from the left has a misogynistic element. And she is also right to argue for Hillary as the only progressive choice.

There is no shortage of leftist theoreticians, ideological puritans and selflessly principled purveyors of irrelevancy who can quote chapter and verse why Hillary is not left wing,

But some basic points remain in the US context.

And context is so important here. In the home of rampant capitalism, the right is rich, organised, aggressively male and always on the march, in a manner many of Van Badham’s critics fail to acknowledge from the comfort of their left perspective armchairs.

To become any where near being president of such a nation? As a woman?

Bernie is not on the ballot paper, nor are unicorns, nor a workers’ revolution.

Only a woman who’s had to fight on so many flanks since she refused to bake cookies and shut up, way back in Bill’s day.

Does a Hillary win mean a better chance on basic healthcare? Or women’s reproductive rights, maternity leave or the minimum wage or so may other basic bread and butter issues of justice and equality for US women, the poor, the struggling and otherwise.

Does a Hillary win mean a chance to roll back Citizens United or the gutting of the VRA and a possibly Supreme Court that is not a bulwark for reactionary and corporate America?

Does a Hillary win give heart to women and girls all around the world?

And maybe confound the wishes of the many US and global religious and political zealots who are happy with the sexism, subjugation and exploitation that women bear?

And lastly, dies a Hillary win mean the US is more likely to keep the US on the climate action train?

Van has made a cogent case why any one with faintly progressive impulses would vote for Hillary.

Let’s all hope her wish comes true.