The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 24 January 2018

Affairs

Image: Getty Images

Call it a day?

Instead of bringing people together, Australia’s national day continues to divide opinion.

There are growing calls to move the date of Australia Day. Why? Because it commemorates the landing of the British convict ships that consequently led to the dispossession of the indigenous population. Some Aboriginal groups want 26 January renamed Invasion Day, and nationwide rallies are attracting larger numbers. Political support for reform is being led by the head of the Green party, Richard Di Natale, who predicts change within a decade (although he has failed to win backing from Australia’s first female indigenous MP). Many Aussies are quite happy with things as they are and, in a rare show of unity, that includes prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and his opposite number Bill Shorten. Australia Day should unite all Australians, says Turnbull – and yet each year it is becoming increasingly divisive.

Business

Image: Getty Images

It takes two

Sri Lanka’s problem: finding a way to kickstart its faltering economy. The solution? Singapore.

Sri Lanka and Singapore have signed a “modern and comprehensive” free-trade agreement, signalling that the former is serious about luring in foreign investors. The agreement includes a significant precedent: a clause to let Singaporean companies bid for government contracts. This move, giving Sri Lanka’s fourth-biggest export market the “national treatment”, is great news, not least for the 90 or so Singaporean construction, infrastructure, manufacturing and F&B companies already working in Sri Lanka. And Sri Lanka’s persistently sluggish economic growth, which is in part blamed on an inefficient public sector, could certainly do with an injection of foreign competition. Yet other nations will surely be looking on this development keenly as Sri Lanka, known for its tea, tyres and T-shirt manufacturing, shows itself to be a hospitable trade partner.

Technology

Image: Getty Images

Pangs of conscience

Big companies are showing signs of remorse at Davos so let’s hope that change really is in the air.

On day one of the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday, the biggest technology companies were out in force displaying contrition for recent missteps and attempting to win back public trust. Uber’s newish CEO spoke of “a real cultural change” at the company after allegations of sexual harassment and poor management surfaced last year, while Salesforce’s Marc Benioff said that “trust has to be your highest value”. It’s an intriguing time for the sector: its biggest players (in particular Amazon, Uber, Google, Twitter and Facebook) are experiencing a backlash, as their dominance and methods are questioned by both regulators and users. Only time will tell whether their words reflect anything more than an attempted rebrand but a new era of greater scrutiny and accountability has begun.

Film

Image: Lakeview Restaurant

Hooray for Hollywood

Blockbusters are being shot and produced in Toronto – and are turning the city into a star.

In Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which received 13 Oscar nominations yesterday, the protagonist’s weekly routine is interspersed, begrudgingly, by visits to a pie shop. For many people in Toronto the dining room in question will be a familiar sight: the Lakeview Restaurant in the city’s west end is one of Toronto’s few late-night restaurants and is no stranger to cameos on the silver screen (Tom Cruise’s 1988 film Cocktail was also shot here). The Shape of Water is just one of many recent blockbusters to have been shot and partly produced in Canada’s largest city; film production brought in about CA$2bn (€1.3bn) in revenue last year. Toronto’s own film-production infrastructure – including visual-effects studio Mr X, which created a large portion of Del Toro’s amphibious protagonist – is also blossoming. Restaurants, coffee shops and hotels are popping up too, hoping to cater to the steady flow of Hollywood’s great and good. Toronto is ready for its close-up.

From Monocle Films

Healthy architecture

How can architects, designers, retailers and city planners embrace a new vernacular that delivers places that leave us feeling better about our lives? Our fourth Quality of Life Conference film explores the notion.

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