Friday 12 January 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 12/1/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

The then Prince and Princess of Wales in Australia in 1983

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Andrew Mueller

Aussie rules

Australians wanting an Australian head of state will be waiting a while longer. The government of prime minister Anthony Albanese, though committed to an Australian republic, is backing off. The assistant minister for the republic, Matt Thistlethwaite, conceded this week that changing the country’s head of state is “not a priority”.

What Thistlethwaite didn’t say is that it is now politically impossible for this government to make it a priority. Severing Australia’s link with the British Crown would require a yes vote in a referendum and this government recently lost one: the Indigenous Voice to Parliament. Another rejection would punch an unpluggable hole in Albanese’s authority, especially as Australia already held a referendum on becoming a republic in 1999 and just 45 per cent of the country voted yes. (British magazine Private Eye summed the debate up with a cartoon of an Australian peering from beneath his cork-festooned trilby at a ballot, asking whether the Queen was a “bonzer sheila” or “pommy bastard”.) While it is absurd that my country’s head of state is chosen by accident of birth in a foreign castle, it’s unclear whether ditching the monarchy would make any Australian richer, healthier or happier. It also seems that the sleep of my fellow citizens is untroubled by antimonarchist seething.

Australia’s media is agog at the imminent prospect of the first Australian-born queen – Tasmania’s own Crown Princess Mary of Denmark (the pedantic might make a case for Queen Susan of the Albanians, Sydney-born wife of King Leka, but she was royalty in exile). A recent YouGov poll suggested that King Charles III, the Prince and Princess of Wales, Princess Anne and Prince Edward were all more popular than any Australian politician, which is probably something that Australian politicians should make a priority.

Andrew Mueller is host of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle Radio. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Mariusz Kaminski, former head of the Central Anticorruption Bureau, in Warsaw

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Poland

Ladder of law

In an astonishing act of political theatre, Polish police entered the country’s presidential palace this week to detain two MPs: former interior minister Mariusz Kaminski and his ex-deputy, Maciej Wasik. Both were convicted of abuses of power in 2007 but were pardoned by president Andrzej Duda of the Law and Justice party (PiS). The MPs’ arrest follows an appeals court ruling in December that they should serve two years in prison.

Mateusz Mazzini, journalism lecturer at Warsaw’s Collegium Civitas, tells Monocle Radio’s The Globalist that the drama exposes a worrying lack of co-operation between Duda and the country’s prime minister, Donald Tusk. After October’s parliamentary election, there was a wave of optimism across Europe as a populist incumbent was defeated. But, according to Mazzini, this week’s spectacle “shows beyond any shred of a doubt that the government won’t have the energy, time or the resources to lead a Europe-wide charge of liberals against populists”.

For more on Poland’s political paralysis, tune in to Thursday’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio.

Diplomacy / Malaysia & Singapore

Strait talking

Singapore and Malaysia have agreed to create a special economic zone between the two countries. A memorandum of understanding signed yesterday by Malaysia’s prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, and his Singaporean counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, paves the way to boosting co-operation and trade across the border between Singapore and the Malaysian state of Johor.

Border of business: Anwar Ibrahim (centre) with Lee Hsien Loong (on left) at the ceremony for the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System

Image: Alamy

The long view: the city of Johor Bahru, which borders with Singapore in the distance

Image: Alamy

The frontier is one of the world’s busiest international crossings: about 350,000 people a day make their way across the narrow strait to work, transport goods or for leisure. One aim of the agreement is to simplify these crossings, for both cargo and people, by digitising checkpoints and adding passport-free clearance systems. The move should create more jobs, encourage investment and offer smoother commutes to the many Malaysians and Singaporeans who travel across the Johor Strait every day.

Business / Global

Face value

Spain’s Puig has acquired a majority stake in high-performance skincare brand Dr Barbara Sturm. Part of the German cosmetics company’s success lies in its scientific approach: its eponymous founder has a background in orthopaedics and spent years developing clinical research for inflammatory conditions. Sturm translated her findings to aesthetics and some of the products she created, such as the brand’s plasma-based moisturiser, became instant hits. The brand also built connections with customers at its network of spas and offered personalised advice. So Puig is making a good call by keeping Sturm on board as brand ambassador and chief product-development officer. “The new partnership reinforces Puig’s skincare segment and our presence in the US,” says Marc Puig, the group’s chairman and CEO. This is the latest in a series of acquisitions by the market-leading fashion and fragrance giant, which also owns beauty labels including Sweden’s Byredo and the UK’s Charlotte Tilbury. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Doug Shapley

Photo of the week / UK

Portrait of a nation

Scotland-based photographer Doug Shapley’s photo, “Arlo & Grandad”, is one of the 100 winning images from the Portrait of Britain 2023 competition. The award, which is run by the British Journal of Photography and JCDecaux UK, is the biggest annual portrait-photography exhibition celebrating the multifaceted aspects of life in the country.

For the next month, the winning entries will be publicly exhibited on JCDecaux UK digital screens across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Image: Alamy

Monocle Radio / The Foreign Desk

Bangladesh’s one-party democracy

Andrew Mueller explains Bangladesh’s descent into a one-party autocracy.


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