1. The Christmas Island offshore processing centre will re-open as part of what the Morrison government calls a range of strengthening measures for Operation Sovereign Borders following this week’s passage of the medevac bill, which will allow refugees to come to Australia for medical treatment. It means Australians are heading towards yet another election where border protection looks set yet again to be front and centre when what’s apparent from a range of economic data is that household budgets are under enormous pressure, leading people to constrain spending, putting consumption growth — and the jobs associated with it — at risk, while at the same time they’re watching the value of their homes decline. Maybe we’ll hear more about the issues closer to people’s daily lives in the coming weeks. A nation half-heartedly holds its breath.
2. Speaking of Australian household budgets one of the big questions for the global economy — and by extension Australia — is how China’s massive debt pile is managed. Economists at the Federal Reserve are now warning that the build-up in household debt over recent years could pose a threat to financial stability. Still, household debt in China is a fraction of what it is in other countries, as shown in this map, where the dark green countries are the ones with the biggest problems.
3. There was a bit of dust-up between One Nation Senator Brian Burston and Pauline Hanson’s advisor Pauline Hanson last night in Parliament House. Photos of bandaged hands and smears of blood on a wall have surfaced. It’s unclear what it was all about. There are pictures at The Australian.
4. To markets, and the main US indices were higher overnight with increasing optimism that there’ll be some resolution to the trade tensions with China. ASX futures are pointing lower, however, for no immediately apparent reason. A rally for the Australian dollar ran out of puff overnight on strong US data. Chinese trade data for January is the main event in Asian trading today. More here.
5. It looks like New Zealand is the latest country to find itself iced by China. Having previously had strong links to China, a visit by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is reportedly on hold, while plans for a New Zealand-China year of tourism have failed to launch. And you’ll recall an Air New Zealand flight to Beijing was turned around mid-air last weekend, reportedly over documentation on the flight that referenced Taiwanese independence.
6. George Soros is warning Europe could implode like the Soviet Union before it, in a new op-ed arguing that anti-EU forces in several countries including Italy, Britain, and Germany are mobilising ahead of European Parliamentary elections and that pro-Europe voters need to “wake up before it is too late.” He says: “If they don’t, the European Union will go the way of the Soviet Union in 1991.” More here.
It’s the first black leopard photographed in Africa for more than 100 years. Photographer Will Burrard-Lucas took a series of pictures using a camera trap in Kenya. Only 11% of leopards have the pigmentation that makes them almost entirely black, and most of them are in south-east Asia. More pictures here.
8. Opportunity is dead; long live Opportunity. The Mars rover affectionately known as “Oppy” has finally stopped communicating with NASA after 15 years — an incredible feat for a machine that was supposed to last a few months. Here’s just some of what it achieved.
9. Do you plan your day meticulously enough? There’s a rising trend of microscheduling amongst some successful people, which involves breaking the day down into tiny slots, sometimes as short as 10 to 15 minutes, even down to three-minute bathroom breaks. Yes, it’s real.
10. Mars One, the company that promised to send people to Mars on a one-way trip that would be funded by a reality TV show about them starting a human colony there, has declared bankruptcy. We are shocked — shocked! — that the “Fyre Festival” of interplanetary exploration hasn’t quite worked out.
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