The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 9 April 2018

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Turning tables

As voters make their preferences known down under, the past may come back to bite the Aussie premier.

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s coalition government is widely expected to come second to the opposition Labour party in today’s poll of voter preferences. The coalition’s 30th-consecutive loss in the regular Newspoll – which is published by broadsheet The Australian – is seen as a critical marker for the Aussie prime minister; it is the same yardstick that he cited as proof of his predecessor Tony Abbott’s poor leadership before ousting him in 2015. Talk of another leadership challenge will gain pace ahead of next year’s general election. Abbott, who has been reveling in Turnbull’s losing Newspoll streak, has also been dropping hints about a second coming, though there seems to be little public appetite for his return. For our money, long-serving foreign minister Julie Bishop is a far more credible contender for Australia’s future PM.

Infrastructure

Image: Getty Images

High wire act

The Japanese government has decided to bury some of its problems.

In Japanese cities, looking up will rarely reward you with a view of open skies – you’re more likely to see a tangle of utility wires. Not just an eyesore, the wires can be a hazard in a country frequently hit by earthquakes and typhoons. With the Tokyo Olympics just two years away, the government has decided to act. This week the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism finalised plans to bury 1,400 kilometres of wire starting this year. It will share the cost with utility companies – though it’s not yet clear what the final cost will be – and Olympic venues around Tokyo, with tourist areas and Unesco heritage sites given top priority. There’s plenty to do: less than 5 per cent of Tokyo’s streets have utility lines running underground and the capital is ahead of every other region. Whether there will be any funding and political will to continue once the Olympic Games are over remains a mystery.

Diplomacy

Image: Getty Images

Testing times?

Donald Trump publicly reprimands Vladimir Putin. Has their relationship turned a corner?

Relations between Russia and the West, which had already hit new lows in the wake of the nerve agent attack of a former Russian double agent in Salisbury, have deteriorated even further in recent days. On Friday the US announced it was imposing sanctions on seven Russian oligarchs, 17 senior government officials, the state arms exporter and a bank. Then, following reports of a fatal attack with chemical weapons in Syria on Sunday, US president Donald Trump publicly placed part of the blame on Vladimir Putin’s shoulders via Twitter. It was, most notably, the first time Trump has openly rebuked the Russian president. But does that mean the US president has turned a corner when it comes to dealing with the Kremlin? Don’t be so sure. Just days ago, Trump pushed for pulling out of Syria completely, which would allow Russia to gain even more control in the country. If he follows through, his actions will speak louder than his tweets.

Travel

Image: Alamy

Abuse of power

Irresponsible online reviews have long been an issue – but now they’re leading to arrests.

Reviews have always had a make-or-break impact on restaurants, hotels and bars; journalistic ethics mean that critics can – and at times should – be ruthless. But the depressing rise and frequent abuse of user-feedback websites such as TripAdvisor has left a black mark on the notion of the honest review. The latest case takes us to Italy, where a Canadian woman has been arrested after writing a scathing assessment of her accommodation – and then demanding €10,000 from the proprietor in exchange for removing it from the website. Gathering candid comments may have been TripAdvisor’s initial aim but anonymity is a tempting weapon and one that’s proven time and again too tempting to abuse. It’s another reminder for readers and restaurateurs that an unfiltered opinion isn’t always as it seems.

From Monocle 24

Image: Sofie Layton

Art of the heart and mind

Sunday Brunch

Get under the skin of art as we look at artists’ personalities, get a glimpse into Picasso’s personal life and reflect on the heart through art. Plus: we discuss Estonian literature and try some Indian cuisine.

From Monocle Films

Market value

Monocle Films travels to Helsinki to visit Vanha Kauppahalli, the city’s oldest waterside food market, to meet the merchants serving up the very best in Nordic cuisine.

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