Friday 20 May 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 20/5/2022

The Monocle Minute

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Opinion / Andrew Mueller

Plodding to power?

Voting is compulsory in Australia and tomorrow’s federal election will be one of those contests in which that’s just as well, or the country’s future direction might have been decided by whichever of the contenders for the premiership has the larger family. Incumbent prime minister Scott Morrison, leader of Australia’s Liberal – which is to say conservative – Party, is an earnest plodder. His opponent, Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese (pictured), has attracted infrequent comparisons with a ball of fire. When I visited Australia earlier this month, not once did anybody that I spoke to raise the subject of the election unprompted.

In many respects, that is not unusual. Australians are not, by inclination, a militantly politically engaged bunch – the politicians of the 1920s who decided to make the vote compulsory understood their people well. But it is also at least arguable that Australia’s political placidity is a product of the compulsory vote. Australian politicians cannot win by winding up a partisan minority base and must pitch their case more broadly.

Albanese’s pitch this election has essentially been that he is not Scott Morrison. Opinion polls suggest that many Australians find this persuasive after nearly four years of Morrison and nearly a decade of his party in power. Morrison has made assurances that he has listened and promises that he will change, a common tactic among incumbents who perceive the vultures circling, but he will not have forgotten that the polls pretty much wrote him off the last time too.

Both anecdote and data suggest that tomorrow Australians will choose resignedly between what they perceive to be a pair of uninspired and uninspiring duds. If Albanese does become Australia’s 31st prime minister, it will be because he still enjoys, in this regard, some benefit of the doubt.

Image: Casey Kelbaugh/Frieze

Arts / USA

State of the art

Frieze New York kicks off its 10th edition this week under the direction of Christine Messineo, who also curated Frieze Los Angeles, the art fair’s other North American instalment, in February. In New York, Messineo has struck a winning balance between the global and the local. Here are three things that have caught our eye.

Latin America: While most of the non-US exhibitors are European, there’s a strong showing from Latin America, including galleries from Guatemala, Colombia and Brazil. Sé Galeria, founded in São Paulo 2014, is showing the outstanding work of Brazilian artist Rebecca Sharp.

New York special: Closer to home, the fair pays tribute to four New York nonprofits celebrating significant anniversaries in the past year. Electronic Arts Intermix, Artists Space, AIR and Printed Matter are all artist-led organisations dating from the 1970s. Printed Matter is presenting installations in Frieze’s venue The Shed for the duration of the fair, while the others are putting on tie-in events in their respective spaces around the city.

Caffeine high art: Art isn’t the only thing on sale here. Albert Oehlen, a German-born artist represented by the Gagosian, has installed a vending machine stocked with a drink of his own concoction called Cofftea/Kafftee. Developed in collaboration with Munich-based beverage company Aqua Monaco, the drink – as you can probably guess – is a mixture of coffee and tea that, the artist promises, will “never let you sleep again”.

Image: Getty Images

Economy / Global

Lessons learned

It’s hard to overstate the sea change that investors are now witnessing. For Yves Bonzon, chief investment officer of the Swiss private bank Julius Baer, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February unleashed a monumental shift in how investors view the global economy and its shortcomings. Until then, everyone worked under the assumption that supplies of raw materials were abundant.

“That world died on 24 February,” Bonzon tells Monocle. Now the supply of everything from energy and food to metals and other commodities is being called into question; as a result, investors have “nowhere to hide”, he says. More broadly, Bonzon believes that investors are taking political risks into account for the first time in a generation. “To be honest, in my capacity as chief investment officer, I consciously, willingly ignored politics since my career started, right up until 24 February. Now we have a world where the priorities have changed.”

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Thailand

Clean start

Bangkok’s pavements have become even more cluttered than usual as pedestrians compete for space with an eruption of election posters. Residents of Thailand’s capital will be voting on Sunday for a new governor, a post for which there are more than 30 candidates. The clear favourite is former transport minister Chadchart Sittipunt, who has pledged to clean up those footpaths and declared high-quality pavements a fundamental right for the city’s residents. His campaign has won plaudits for using “skinny” street banners and even recycled bags bearing an image of his face (pictured).

While a win for Sittipunt might make it easier to navigate the capital by foot, it could also be a step forward for democracy in Thailand. The outgoing Bangkok governor was appointed to the position by the military-led government that took power in the 2014 coup. As the first gubernatorial election in almost a decade, Sunday’s vote paves the way for the next general election, which could take place later this year.

Image: Adam Amengual

Urbanism / USA

Call of the wild

On the outskirts of Los Angeles, Route 101 carves its way through Liberty Canyon. The 10-lane freeway (pictured) divides two wilderness-preservation areas, hemming in an urban population of cougars – also known as pumas and, colloquially, mountain lions – on tiny, disconnected pockets of habitat. Which is why the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing that has recently broken ground is significant. When completed in 2025, the bridge will be covered in native plants and resemble a small hill with a freeway tunnelling beneath. It will be the largest wildlife crossing in the world, allowing local lion populations to roam and expand their gene pool.

“It’s taken 20 years of research but we know that this is the spot for it,” Jeff Sikich, a biologist with the US National Park Service, tells Monocle’s June issue. Sikich is keen to stress that it’s not just about preventing roadkill. “The crossing will benefit all wildlife, from lions and lizards, to small songbirds that can’t fly far,” he says.

For more on the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, pick up the June issue of Monocle on newsstands or subscribe today.

Monocle 24 / The Entrepreneurs

Deliciously Ella

Shifting narratives around healthy eating and plant-based food have offered innovators an opportunity to establish and grow some brilliant businesses. Ella Mills is the founder and driving force behind Deliciously Ella, a plant-based food platform that advocates for a delicious path to feeling better. As the business celebrates its first 10 years, Mills and her husband – Deliciously Ella’s CEO, Matt Mills – explain how the brand began as a passion project but then evolved. Now it features a leading range of plant-based food products, an app, best selling recipe books, a podcast, a restaurant and a like-minded global community both online and offline.

Monocle Films / Greece

Keeping the faith

In this digital age, do we need more forgiveness and sacrifice in our lives? And where can we look for direction? Monocle Films sits down with Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to find out how the church strives to address contemporary needs and remain relevant.


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