Wednesday. 24/4/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / James Chambers

Winds of change

Nominations for candidates in Australia’s federal elections on 18 May closed yesterday. The Labor opposition is expected to oust the centre-right Liberal-National coalition government after six years in power, making party leader Bill Shorten the favourite to be the next prime minister.

Shorten is an uninspiring choice for many voters but his plans for cutting carbon emissions and reducing plastic pollution will be warmly welcomed by neighbouring countries. For most of this decade the Australian government has shown a woeful disregard for climate change even as tiny Pacific nations, such as the Marshall Islands, are at risk of disappearing due to rising sea levels.

The incumbent, Scott Morrison, will want to focus on the economy when he faces Shorten in the campaign’s first televised leadership debate on Monday. Australia has endured a torrid summer: a mix of record temperatures, monsoon rain, floods, fires and drought – extreme even by Australian standards – has pushed climate change into the spotlight. Shorten may lack charisma but finally taking a stand on this heated issue would be anything but boring.

Politics / France

Terms and conditions

The fire at Notre Dame cathedral became Emmanuel Macron’s top priority last week, superseding his long-awaited speech on the demands of the gilets jaunes. He will release his delayed response to the protests tomorrow. The leaked text of his original address (which was due to be aired on the day of the fire) was met with a lukewarm reception from both the press and his political opponents. Despite suggesting a number of broadly uncontroversial reforms, such as tax cuts for the middle classes, Macron largely avoided addressing the core concerns of the increasingly violent protests: social inequality and the state of public services. While this might frame the president as a Gallic strongman, “it does not solve the deeper issues”, says Philippe Marlière, professor of French politics at University College London. If tomorrow’s speech is unchanged, Macron’s popularity may take another hit, no matter how well the public feels he has dealt with the Notre Dame fire. “The past two presidents didn’t win a second term,” says Marlière. “That could well be the fate of Macron.”

Diplomacy / Switzerland & China

One for the road

Swiss president Ueli Maurer is expected to sign up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) this week during his official visit to the Asian country. Speaking to Chinese state media ahead of the trip, Maurer described the plan to rebuild historic land and maritime trading routes between Asia and Europe as a “100-year project”. He will also take part in the second BRI summit in Beijing. Close to 40 world leaders will arrive in the Chinese capital on Thursday; many of these presidents and prime ministers come from smaller neighbouring nations, although a growing list of European countries have signed up to president Xi Jinping’s pet project. Italy became the first G7 member to join last month, ignoring protests from the US. Washington has been anything but neutral in its criticism of the Chinese-backed project and will only be sending low-ranking officials to the summit.

Urbanism / Madrid

Loud and clear

The promise of life and activity are the very things that tempt many people to cities but an unseen menace may be hampering our health, says the World Health Organisation: noise. The WHO states that Spain is the noisiest nation (joint with Japan) to live in – but new data, quietly released by Spanish NGO Ecologistas en Acción, shows there’s an intriguingly hushed outlier: Madrid. The capital doesn’t appear in the country’s top 10 noisiest cities – but why not? A mixture of being fortuitously spread out and enforcing a fine on motorists who exceed set decibel levels has kept a lid on the din in a city that’s known for night-long revelry. Consistent exposure to sounds in excess of 60 decibels or so (a revving engine, for example) has a negative effect on people, including higher anxiety levels and cardiovascular concerns. As our cities become busier, we’d all do well to listen to Madrid for answers. For more on that subject, buy a ticket to our annual Quality of Life Conference in the capital this June.

Currency / Canada

Face value

The Royal Canadian Mint has unveiled the design for a revamped dollar coin commemorating the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Canada in 1969. The coin, designed by Vancouver-based artist and activist Joe Average, depicts two stylised faces, interlocked, with the word “equality” embossed within the arc of a rainbow. According to Canada’s Mint, it’s the first time that LGBT history has been celebrated on a circulation coin anywhere in the world. It’s a sterling effort and an important reminder that the design of a nation’s currency can say much about how a nation sees itself – and the values it trades on.

M24 / The Big Interview: New season

Chiwetel Ejiofor

The English actor has had a successful career in film as well as on stage – and earlier this year he launched his career as a writer and director with critically acclaimed debut ‘The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind’. Ben Rylan sat down with him to talk about the craft of acting, writing and directing.

Film / Spain

The Monocle Quality of Life Conference: Madrid

Join us to discover all the Spanish capital has to teach us, be it inviting hospitality, nocturnal delights or the recipe for a long and happy life. Prepare to be challenged and inspired by a host of thinkers unpacking architecture, entrepreneurship, media, retail, entertainment and more.

/

sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Print magazine subscriptions start from £55.

Subscribe now

Loading...

/

15

15

Live

00:00 01:00