The week after the night before: What Sydney thinks of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey’s first budget

When six pictures paint thousands of words and numbers bamboozle. But first, seven words:

Christopher Pyne – putting the ‘n’ in cut

… from my favourite placard at the March in May on Sunday 18 May 2014. Here are some more words and pics from the March in May – and scenes from today’s University of Technology protests against tertiary education cuts.

Victoria Park, Sunday 18 May 2014

Victoria Park, Sunday 18 May 2014


And hands off our education: Students and staff protest at the University of Technology, Wednesday 21 May 2014

Students and staff at the University of Technology: Hands off our education

Students and staff at the University of Technology: Hands off our education




As for the saga of the disappearing books – in this Sydney Writers’ Festival week – from the University of Sydney’s libraries, I wrote to the Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence on Monday but have not yet heard a word in reply. Perhaps I will not.

Or, perhaps Michael Spence is too busy trying to make sense of the federal budget’s plan to deregulate course fees for higher education.

According to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney – Barney Glover – the funding changes to higher education are SO COMPLEX there isn’t enough time to implement them by 2016, when they’re due to go ahead. And Professor Glover should know. He has a PhD in applied mathematics.

It reminds me of Erasmus, who in his 1509 satire In Praise of Folly mocked a new breed of sophist: mathematicians and all those who use numbers to hoodwink and bamboozle. In this passage Erasmus was very possibly referring to the father of accounting Luca Pacioli:

‘When especially they disdain the vulgar crowd is when they bring out their triangles, quadrangles, circles, and mathematical pictures of the sort, lay one upon the other, intertwine them into a maze, then deploy some letters as if in line of battle, and presently do it over in reverse order – and all to involve the uninitiated in darkness.’

We live daily with the consequences of this rule by number.


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