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Yesterdaze: Phil Twyford’s parallel universe

There’s a universe in which Phil Twyford’s promise to build 100,000 KiwiBuild homes within a space of 10 years actually happens. Unfortunately, that’s not the universe we’re currently sharing. James Elliott with his news of the week. 

Caltech physicist Sean Carroll has just published a new book called Something Deeply Hidden, a title that suggests that it’s about Judith Collins' Prime Ministerial ambitions; but in fact isn’t. In his book, Carroll puts forward the hypothesis that there are countless parallel universes. He’s not the first person to do this as anyone familiar with the work of Stephen Hawking, Erwin Schrödinger and his theoretical cat, or the Terminator film franchise will tell you.    

But Carroll goes a step further, delving into what is going on in these parallel universes. He says that “it’s absolutely possible that there are multiple worlds where you make different decisions”. More particularly there are a near-infinite number of versions of you that could have made every conceivable alternate choice in your life. So, for example, there’s a universe out there in which some of you didn’t opt for double-denim, mullets and crocs; and another one where some of you did.       

Carroll’s multichoice, multiuniverse hypothesis could have a profound effect on the political landscape. In theory there’s a universe in which David Cameron decided not to hold a referendum as to whether Britain should stay in the EU, in which Fred and Mary Trump decided against having any children, and in which Phil Twyford isn’t hapless. Okay, that last one might be a bit of a stretch. Phil Twyford seems to be hapless on a universally universal scale.  

Twyford’s “had vs hadn’t” and “has vs hasn’t” conundrums might be useful tools for working in the field of quantum physics but they’re decidedly suboptimal tools for overseeing a government agency with an annual spend of $4 billion.

According to Carroll’s theory, there’s a universe in which Twyford’s promise to build 100,000 KiwiBuild homes within a space of 10 years actually happens. Unfortunately, as we now know, that’s not the universe we’re all currently sharing. In this universe there are no longer any KiwiBuild targets, KiwiBuild is a dead brand and Twyford is no longer the Minister of Housing.

But he is still (at least as at 9am this morning) the Minister of Transport, a portfolio into which he is now injecting his unique brand of haplessness. For the second time in a week, and a short week at that, Twyford has been accused of giving Parliament incorrect information in relation to the workings of the NZTA. First there was confusion as to whether Twyford had or hadn’t asked NZTA board members to stay on, and now there’s controversy over whether NZTA has or hasn’t completed an assessment of the NZ Super Fund’s proposal to build the multi-billion dollar Auckland light rail project.

Twyford’s “had vs hadn’t” and “has vs hasn’t” conundrums might be useful tools for working in the field of quantum physics but they’re decidedly suboptimal tools for overseeing a government agency with an annual spend of $4 billion. With NZTA in danger of being rebranded KiwiCars, it looks like now’s the time for PM Jacinda Ardern to make a definitive call on her own version of Schrödinger’s dilemma – should or shouldn’t Phil Twyford be a minister?    

Meanwhile, rugby fans have their own dilemma to work through. What is the least worst option, an English or Springboks Rugby World Cup win? The only saving grace in the All Blacks semi-final loss to England was that it happened on the Saturday of Labour weekend, meaning we could faithfully observe the obligatory two days of national mourning and moaning before getting back to work on Tuesday.

While the fire is out and the threat of toxic smoke and wastewater emissions has passed, SkyCity Casino’s unique brand of toxicity continues to leech out into the community unabated – just remember, no matter which alternate universe you’re gambling in, the house always wins.

Coping with an All Blacks loss isn’t something we’re good at, it hasn’t happened in the World Cup since 2007, and there’s the added difficulty of choosing which colour mourning clothes to wear. You can perhaps console yourself with the thought there’s a parallel universe in which the All Blacks pipped the English and are playing Wales in the final, but bear in mind there’s yet another universe in which those two English tries weren’t disallowed, they didn’t lose that lineout on their own line, and we lost 33 zip.

There are also some occasions when your place in the universe is decided by the outcome of a simple binary choice – an actual heads vs tails. So spare a thought for Anthony Mason and Alison Silock, who both lost District Council elections on a coin toss after tied election results. But with an average local government voter turnout of under 50 percent there might be one or two of Anthony and Alison’s friends and family quietly wishing for a universe in which they had actually posted the votes that they had promised to make.  

And there’s more than a few people wishing that a blow torch on the SkyCity Convention Centre roof had been turned off. While the fire is out and the threat of toxic smoke and wastewater emissions has passed, SkyCity Casino’s unique brand of toxicity continues to leech out into the community unabated – just remember, no matter which alternate universe you’re gambling in, the house always wins.

Have a peaceful weekend.                                                        

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