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View from the Street: Greg Hunt is the bestest minister in the whole wide world!

And how's that whole Closing the Gap thing going, would you say? Your news of the day, reduced to a snarky rant.

Define "best"

You ever have one of those mornings when you wake up and can't immediately tell whether or not you're just having particularly vivid dream? 

Everything seems normal, except for your metamorphosis into a giant cockroach, say, or the announcement that "Environment" Minister Greg Hunt has been voted Best Minister in the World at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

What were the criteria for this singular honour? It reportedly aims to celebrate those "who lead quality successful initiatives". And sure, that the phrase doesn't make grammatical nor syntactical sense - but that just makes it especially well suited to the man that spearheaded Direct Action.

It's the first year of the award, which was invented by Canadian media conglomerate Thomson Reuters and therefore has around the same level of credibility as the View from the Street Award for Radness in the Field of Awesome. 

(Actually, Hunt does seem an appropriate recipient: the company's Wikipedia page reveals that Roy Thompson made a fortune in oil and gas exploitation, which seems very on-message with Hunt's work in ensuring developments aren't hindered by environmental responsibilities in Queensland.)

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And it's grand that this honour should follow Hunt's most recent triumph: seeing Australia drop significantly on what he'd previously called "the most credible, scientifically based" environmental analysis in the world.

Hunt told Fairfax that he was "genuinely humbled" by the prize, but that "this is really an award for Australia".

So congratulations, citizens: apparently we're the best minister in the world! 

Mind the Gap

However, proof that we're not living in a zany dreamworld came shortly afterwards when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull delivered the annual Closing the Gap address on the state of indigenous health, education and welfare in Australia, which had the same theme as the last few years in that the gap's evidently not getting closed.

The line being touted by both major parties is that progress is "mixed": child mortality is thankfully down and year 12 completion has risen, but other goals in educational attendance, employment, incarceration rates and life expectancy are all woeful-to-shameful. 

Thankfully the PM was clear on what was needed: respect. 

"That is the glue," he said at today's Close the Gap 10th anniversary parliamentary breakfast. "That is the absolutely essential element that holds us together and provides us with the ability to do better and better in the years ahead."

He gave a similarly feelingsy speech in Parliament this morning, insisting that "The Closing The Gap challenge is often described as a problem to be solved. But more than anything, it is an opportunity. If our greatest assets are our people, if our richest capital is our human capital, then the opportunity to empower the imagination, the enterprise, the wisdom and the full potential of our first Australians is an exciting one." 

It was a nice speech - including a welcome in the Ngunnawal language - slightly soured by the fact that a fair whack of his party couldn't be arsed showing up to hear it.

It was probably because, if anything, they care too much about the subject, right? Yep, that'd be it.

Throwing solutions at the problems

Ex-PM Tony Abbott did take the time to pop by to hear Turnbull's speech, but immediately scurried out of the chamber to avoid listening to Labor leader Bill Shorten's response. And that was probably wise, since Bill had a lot to say about the Abbott government's half a billion dollars cut in the 2014 budget from Aboriginal Health Services and jobs, schooling and safety programmes.

"It's easy in the current political discourse to say that throwing money at the problem won't solve it and if it was going to solve it, it would have solved it in the past," he fumed. "This is an alibi to justify cutting funding because pretending that money doesn't matter, pretending that empowerment through greater resources doesn't make a difference is an arrogant falsehood. It is generally used by people for whom lack of money and lack of power has never been a problem." But that sounds far less perky! It's never been a more exciting time, Bill!

So rest assured that the Turnbull government will address the still-staggering ten year difference in life expectancy between indigenous and non-indegneous Australians with no shortage of respect and opportunity. Money and resources, though, seem set to remain in much shorter supply.

Unity of purpose!

Another thing Turnbull included in his speech was that "further amends" need to be made by "successfully amending the constitution. Our nation's founding document should reflect Australia as it is, not how it was perceived 120 years ago." 

And that sounds fair, although New Matilda reported that a meeting last week with Victoria's Aboriginal Affairs Minister Natalie Hutchins regarding questions around self determination and constitutional recognition ended as soon as it began.

More specifically: the 500-strong group of leaders from various Aboriginal language groups and organisations moved the motion "We as Sovereign People reject Constitutional Recognition", before passing said motion with unanimous support

It's worth keeping this in mind as the question of Constitutional Recognition starts getting batted about with increasing vigour in the coming months.   

The Saga of StuRob

Oh, and there's more dramas in the ongoing embarrassment that is Human Services Minister Stuart Robert

His repeated and increasingly comical refusal to answer questions in Parliament on Wednesday has cleared up zero doubts about whether he was visiting China in a conflict-of-interest-seeming official or totally-reasonable-unofficial capacity in 2014, in order to celebrate a deal being cut between Chinese company Minmetals and Nimrod Resources, owned by his pal (and large-scale Liberal donor) Paul Marks, who owns businesses in which Robert has a financial interest. 

The matter has been referred to Martin Parkinson, head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, for an official investigation into whether Robert broke the Ministerial Code of Conduct. 

However, the opposition isn't letting up in asking why, if the minister was definitely just there in a private capacity, Robert won't confirm that it said as much on his entry visa - and also why the Minmetals website seems to contain details of an official speech that Robert supposedly made as a representative of the Australian government.  

And then there's the bizarre story of Robert, Tony Abbott and Ian Macfarlane being given Rolex watches by a Chinese billionaire in 2013 (including their assumption that said watches were fake, for some reason).

Stu, maybe back off hanging out with billionaire Chinese businessmen for a little bit. It seems you're not great at it.  

The cocktail hour: the greatest chord in rock'n'roll?

Books and scholarly articles have been written by frustrated music fans trying to unravel the greatest Beatles mystery of all: what the hell is the opening chord of A Hard Day's Night?

And now, thanks to having access to the original multitrack tapes the band laid down in Abbey Road all those decades ago, guitarist Randy Bachman - him out of Bachman Turner Overdrive - has finally answered the question and confirmed that goddamn, those Beatle fellows really were crazy geniuses. Pour a drink and listen for yourself. 

See you back here tomorrow, friends, and cheers!

Andrew P Street's book The Short and Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott is out now, and available through Booktopia.

The top stories on smh.com.au on Wednesday:

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  3. A mother's internet sleuthing about her daughter's odd teeth leads to a troubling discovery
  4. Exploitation in electronics: Too many companies failing to come clean
  5. ATO cracks down on utes after helping make Hilux a best seller
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