MUNGO MacCALLUM. Caught in the endless travails of his ungovernable party room, Frydenberg has procrastinated yet again.

The most remarkable thing our Prime Minister said last week was not his claim that the party founded by Sir Robert Menzies was not Conservative but Liberal – even liberal, a touch progressive.

This has furrowed brows and raised gorges, and not only from the right wing rump and their media claque. But it was at least a matter of debate, and so was duly debated.  

However, what are we to make of his bald declaration: “The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia”? This is both irrational and totalitarian, straight out of the Donald Trump school of alternate facts.

It has been all too common to hear the extremists (or, as they like to call themselves, the mainstream, the core) deny and attack science in any or all its manifestations, but we had thought Malcolm Turnbull was rather less of a knuckle-dragger; for a moment he sounded very like that other Malcolm, One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts.

Turnbull’s context was on his current war against encryption; he wants to devise a method by which his spooks can get into communications which might aid terrorists, and incidentally child molesters, drug smugglers, organized crime figures – quite a lot of people actually.

The boffins say it can’t be done without compromising the entire system but Turnbull insists that it has to be: they set up the apps so they can fix them – whatever the maths say, the omelet can and must be unscrambled. So much for reality.

It was probably unfortunate that this outburst coincided with the Sisyphean efforts of the Energy and Environment (that bit is an afterthought) Minister Josh Frydenberg to bang premiers heads together in pursuit of a coherent and acceptable response to the report of chief scientist Alan Finkel designed to make energy a bit more affordable, reliable and sustainable.

If mathematical reality is to be determined by statute, Finkel’s work is surely superfluous and all that is needed to is to pass an act declaring the problem over. As far as is known Frydenberg was a little more subtle than that, but he wasn’t all that successful either.

There were a few tweaks – battery storage for renewables, longer notice for power plant closures, and the like – but they were just tweaks: the issue is certainty for energy investors, and that means targets: either set a serious renewable energy target, or, if you are determined to ignore climate change and all its consequences, ditch the whole bloody thing, but stop dithering around.

Caught in the endless travails of his ungovernable party room, Frydenberg has procrastinated yet again: the old target can continue until 2020, he assures us, so there is plenty of time. And no doubt from his perspective there is: 2020 is well past the next election. But in fact we are talking about a bare three years, a blink in he eye for those who have to fund, engineer and set up whatever plants are to be commissioned in the fairly near future.

Still, that’s only arithmetic – Turnbull can take care of such incidentals. And while he’s at it, he might do something about the figures emanating from Newspoll – but perhaps those are genuinely sacred texts. You have to believe in something.

Disclosure: Mungo MacCallum holds an honours degree in pure mathematics from the University of Sydney.


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5 Responses to MUNGO MacCALLUM. Caught in the endless travails of his ungovernable party room, Frydenberg has procrastinated yet again.

  1. PeterL says:

    Turnbull shouldn’t blame the laws of mathematics for sabotaging his strategy to achieve acceptable environmental targets. The real culpit is Mother Nature. The government decided on a very reasonable 2030 Paris Accord carbon emissions pledge that could be easily managed by means of an emission reduction fund without cost to business. It was a beautiful idea which balanced the interests of all parties but it never had a chance. Everybody compromised except Mother Nature who, aided and abetted by her acolytes, the laws of atmospheric physics, has defiantly kept pushing up the temperature on land and in our oceans . As a result, the government has had to come up with a new strategy – a clean energy target that everyone can live with and that causes no economic pain. Once again, all that’s needed is for Mother Nature to compromise and move towards the sensible centre. But she’s again proving to be a recalcitrant, siding with the Greens, and won’t cooperate. Until she comes to her senses and agrees to moderate her demands, the quest for a sensible middle way seems impossible. I sympathize with Malcolm Turnbull. He not only has to deal with Labor in the House and the cross-benchers in the Senate but has to wrangle Mother Nature as well.

  2. James O'Neill says:

    This extraordinary announcement about law trumping mathematics came from the same man who has given us the current NBN; an expensive boondoggle that has Australia sliding down the world’s broadband league tables. As you probably know Dog’s B this government does deny the laws of physics already. Nothing surprises me any more about this bunch of incompetent clowns. Their capacity for calling it wrong extends to just about any area of policy you care to nominate.

  3. derrida derider says:

    “If mathematical reality is to be determined by statute …”
    Famously the Indiana state legislature decreed in the 1900s that pi is equal to 3.125, based on the biblical description of Noah’s Ark. Engineers deliberately breached this statute when they designed bridges; perhaps the IT people should engage in similar civil disobedience.

    I think Frydenberg is stalling on this until after a major Cabinet reshuffle (hoping to then personally be off the hook). But this of course could end in an election – assuming a rational government gets in this would actually the best thing for everybody.

  4. Jaquix says:

    My son with university degree in electronics, and who works in IT, just laughs whenever Malcolm talks about “cyber” and “encryption” and most especially when he announced that the laws of Australia overrode the laws of mathematics. If you want to see the extent of the Liberals’ woeful idea of a website, please take the time to track down which they have created and “launched” last month, as their answer to GetUp! If you dont come away scratching your head at their inept mindset and total incompetence, I will be very surprised.

  5. Dog's Breakfast says:

    “The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia”?

    Yeah, that one just floored me. Imagine anyone saying that, let alone somebody who claims a level of intelligence.

    I assume also that the laws of physics only apply in Australia if they are consistent with the laws of Australia. What an idiot.

    Didn’t know you had a degree in pure maths Mungo. God love you. I always claim to be one of the few people that understand basic maths and can write. Took me to a career as an Analyst, but obviously you leave me in the shade on both counts. 🙂

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