Good morning! It’s Thursday. You can make it.
1. Elon Musk is at it again. An independent NSW politician yesterday asked the Tesla entrepreneur (on Twitter — where else?) how much it would cost to build a tunnel through the Blue Mountains, the geographical hard stop to Sydney’s west that physically prevents the city expanding in that particular direction. Musk had a weirdly specific response:
About $15M/km for a two way high speed transit, so probably around $750M plus maybe $50M/station
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 16, 2019
Now, nobody believed Musk when he connected over Twitter with Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes on a promise to build a new renewable battery for South Australia. So let’s not be entirely cynical, but $15 million per kilometre is a very specific number that almost reads like a cost commitment. In a country that has an horrendous track record of cost blow-outs on infrastructure projects, and when we’re talking about putting a massive tunnel under a UNESCO World-Heritage-listed National Park inhabited by some very eco-conscious residents, it’s worth recalling that there is a specific local phrase for promised infrastructure projects: the bullshit express.
2. The Australian dollar’s rally has reversed for no clear reason, although the ongoing news vacuum on the US-China trade dispute is a likely factor. In contrast, global equity markets were slightly higher overnight.
3. Time to add the US government shutdown as an extra risk to the global outlook. We are now 26 days into the longest shutdown of the US government in history, which is basically centred on Trump’s insistence on having funding for the proposed Mexican border wall. To illustrate how a shutdown like this can start chewing up the economy, more than 40,000 tax office staff are about to return to work without pay to process people’s tax returns and provide refunds. Analysts and executives are starting to talk about the impact this will have on America’s economic activity, and some of the forecasts are dire.
4. Buying opportunity? For what it’s worth, history shows equity markets tend to rally when US government shutdowns are resolved.
5. Theresa May has comfortably survived a vote of no confidence moved by UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the wake of the crushing rejection of the Brexit plan in the House of Commons. Here’s what happens next in the Brexit mélange.
6. “Fortnite” and other free games raked in more than $87 billion last year, and the rest of the gaming industry is starting to take note.
7. Nothing’s happening in Australian politics. Administrative note: Australia Day is going to stay on January 26th, so everyone can continue to look forward to it for now. In an age when politicians all want to be seen to be about action, on this particular matter Bill Shorten was forced this week to commit to not doing anything . At least we can be confident that’s a promise he can keep.
8. YouTube says it’s giving two whole months to users before it comes after them an insists on removing dangerous content such as the “Bird Box challenge”, which involves driving a car while blindfolded. Because what could possibly go wrong?
9. The Kremlin says it’s “stupid” to say Trump is a Russian agent after reports that the US President tried to hide a conversation with Putin.
10. All of life’s problems are solved. A new machine claims to fold your laundry for you in less than 5 minutes. Look:
BONUS ITEM: A tweet this morning from the account that appears to be legitimately that of Australia’s richest person, Anthony Pratt, the Visy packaging billionaire. In fairness, it’s what every Australian sales team in every industry probably does when they land a good client.
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