#63: Walking the Tropics is not at all pleasant.

If you haven’t already, you should follow the Guardian’s Cities’ series talking about all things cities – a fantastic resource for spreading thoughtful insights about our urban built environment.

A recent article from the series that caught my attention featured a compilation of stories about people walking their neighbourhoods in their respective cities. As a self confessed urbanist, I revelled in these stories, reminiscing about the days I used to walk all the time.

Continue reading “#63: Walking the Tropics is not at all pleasant.”

Feature Article: When the walls falls.

The relentless, unstoppable force that spooked Murdoch and Lowy


  • By John McDuling

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It is hard to think of a more fitting conclusion to 2017 for corporate Australia than the two seismic deals involving Rupert Murdoch and Frank Lowy that sent shockwaves around the world [in Dec 2017].

Fox-Disney
Fox Entertainment sold to Disney

 

Murdoch has made little secret of the fact he was concerned that his Fox entertainment businesses didn’t have the necessary scale to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon, so he sold them to Disney.As you almost certainly know by now, the two iconic, octogenarian billionaires decided to sell assets they had spent decades building up, at least in part due to concerns about threats posed to their businesses by internet led rivals.

Westfield
Westfield is being sold to Unibail-Ramenco

Even Murdoch is buying into it.“I read this week about my Australian friends at Westfield. They can see what Amazon is doing to bricks and mortar retail,” he told the Financial Times over the weekend.

As one of the next generation of globally significant Australian executives, Mike-Cannon Brookes, pointed out last week, every industry is being threatened by some form of digital insurrection at the moment.

The advent of Amazon, which terrified retail executives and investors in the sector; Elon Musk and Cannon-Brookes’ intervention into the national energy debate in South Australia, and the rise of crypto-currencies upending the established order in finance were just a few of the big stories that played into this theme.

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Elon Musk is ready to deliver in South Australia’s energy crisis.

There is a belief the Murdoch and Lowy mega-deals could merely represent a taste of things to come, with the theme of technology motivated mergers and acquisitions set to continue next year.

Senior investment bankers this column has spoken to say rapid technological change remains a top concern among directors on the boards of our biggest companies.

This is forcing them to invest more in innovation and technology. Selling assets (including infrastructure and property, but also non-core businesses) that aren’t central to their business is one way to fund that.

One such example could be Telstra’s decision to take steps to reduce its stake in pay TV company Foxtel.

A recent survey of companies and private equity firms by consulting giant Deloitte found that companies in the US expect to do more acquisitions next year.

They are sitting on more cash than they were a year ago – potential changes to America’s tax regime could provide them with even more firepower – and they expect to use that cash to buy other companies.

The biggest motivating factors for acquisitions, according to the Deloitte survey, were a desire to acquire technology, and the need to build out a digital strategy.

The Deloitte survey dovetails with a forecast by Goldman Sachs, which expects M&A spending in the world’s largest economy to rise 6 per cent to $US355 billion next year.

Almost every company these days is trying to position itself as a tech firm. This includes our big banks, Telstra, and in a global context, century old industrial giant General Electric.

The distinction between business and technology is becoming increasingly blurred, the firms with the best tech over the long run will win.

For people exposed to the technology industry, it can be nauseating to hear old school executives rattle off terms like digital disruption, the blockchain and artificial intelligence.

But in fairness to them, in an era of rapid technological change, fighting progress will be futile, so they have little choice but to embrace it.

Unless, like Lowy and Murdoch, you can find a way out.

 

Originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald (online) on 18 December, 2017

Part2/2: Ptsh. F*#% Off mate. “Parking might not be as important to restaurants.”

In a recent piece, I spelled out that I had grown accustomed to owning a vehicle in Cairns. Not a lot has changed. I still need a car, maybe more so now since I sold my car and live a fair way out of the CBD.

It was with a tad bit of bitterness then when I chanced upon a piece in the The Conversation written by Professor Barbara T. H. Yen reporting on her research with a team of scholars from Griffith University.

Continue reading “Part2/2: Ptsh. F*#% Off mate. “Parking might not be as important to restaurants.””

#33 Talking Urbanism- Fixing the Heat in Cairns.

I’m breaking a sweat from J-walking across Grafton Street.

For the first time in a few mild months, I am reminded that this is the tropics. 


The feel of humidity rising in the morning leaves a lot to be desired as I get caught in the mid-Friday-morning sun darting into Rusty’s for the ritual coffee and samosa. 


Friendly nods between the frenzied buzz give way to warm murmurs interjected by the whizz-shhhhh of the coffee machine at Billy’s.


Flippy-floppy thongs slap hard against concrete followed closely by the clip and clop of a heal and a shoe.


Someone mentions in passing that it looks like ‘it’s going to be a hot one’. 


But I can’t tell if they were talking about the coffee or sun.


I notice the first signs of redness beginning to show on our melanin-deficient brothers and sisters who have ventured a bit too long without sunscreen. 


The morning streets will soon be a buzz with tropical professionals zipping into air-conditioned hideaways of the next cafe to avoid unsightly sweat patches. 


But the weather this time of the year is temperamental.


The rains do poke through humid blue skies on the odd occasion, cooling streets and shrinking sidewalks. 


Rains Descend
Wet Weather brings a welcomed reprieve from the heat.

It lingers long enough to make us yearn for more sheltered walkways. But it stays away long enough for us to forget we need them. 


The indecisive weather is part of the lifestyle. A short walk from the Esplanade to Cairns Central would attract an unwarranted public baptism by either precipitation or perspiration. 


I call on a thought to distract myself from the rising hunger as I wait in the samosa line. 


How is it that our city stops short of catering to our tropical lifestyle? 


Why does my daily commute to work have to involve navigating patches of sweat from rising humidity? 


We praise the outdoor tropical lifestyle, yet accept, and think it normal to spend the better part of the week inside air-conditioned cubicles glaring through double-glazed tinted panes.


This is the disjuncture of our existence that evades the public forum, but one that concerns us all. 


This may be about to change. 


I bite into my tamarind sauce topped samosa to settle the hangry morning monster in my belly.


James Cook University, under the vision of Dr Lisa Law and Dr Silvia Tavares, have initiated the Tropical Urbanism and Design Laboratory (TUD Lab) – a space to think about these particular issues. 


Taking advantage of JCU’s agenda on pursuing research with a tropical focus, the JCU TUD Lab will pursue important questions concerning the livability of tropical urban environments. A feat warranted by a State of the Tropics report that claims close to 50% of the worlds people will live in the tropics by the middle of this century.


After having the Cairns Regional Council’s Tropical Urbanism vision applauded at the state level, this TUD Lab would mark an important milestone for thinking about tropical planning and urban design in Cairns, if not the world.


The Lab is set for launch at JCU on the 20th October with registrations essential for catering


Maybe there will be some respite from the heat soon.


By

Hanslee

Image Sources

  1. Foodvixen.com
  2. RamblingsOfAGlobalCitizen (blog)
  3. TropicNow.com.au