Topics: First tram on the way, Robbo’s maiden speech, researchers find ‘civilisation’

STATING THE FACTS: The Hunter Research Foundation map.

STATING THE FACTS: The Hunter Research Foundation map.

Amid the worthy and sobering statistical analysis furnished by Hunter Research Foundation lead economist Anthea Bill at this week’s workshop on the future of John Hospital was this little treasure (pictured).

The map shows Hunter New England Health district, shaded in red and marked “Civilisation”, stretching to the border below “Queensland”. Sydney, it must be noted, is outside “Civilisation”.

Topics was amused and intrigued by the labels. Was “Civilisation” some unintentionally provocative snippet of statistical jargon or a crowd-pleasing gag?

It turns out it was the latter.

Anthea says the research foundation’s director, Will Rifkin, until recently a University of Queensland professor, had “value-added” the word to the graphic because he thought it would get a laugh. 

Turns out he was right and the joke went down well with the 60-plus health, education, political and community leaders in the audience, including Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

Robbo speaks

Tuesday last week was a momentous night in the recent history of Newcastle City Council, or is that City of Newcastle, when councillor Allan Robinson brought forward his first notice of motion in six years as a local government representative.

Robbo has eschewed the cut-and-thrust and occasional bluster of the City Hall chamber since he was elected in 2012.

His most telling contributions to political discourse have been to inform other councillors when their speaking time is up. (Topics regards this an extremely valuable public service.) 

Yet, this night was different. The former jockey and Footy Show star was fired up about the lack of sewerage in Hexham, and he had prepared a speech full of the kind of down-to-earth sentiment you would expect from someone who runs an excavation company. 

He rose from his chair, and the chamber fell silent.

Councillor Allan Robinson

Councillor Allan Robinson

What followed wasn’t exactly Churchillian, but he did strike a presidential tone during a robust account of Hexham’s woes.

“Next week the people of Newcastle will celebrate my sixth year as a Newcastle city councillor,” he Trump-eted.

“It’s been six years of listening to others speak. Sometimes they make a lot of sense; sometimes they don’t … Tonight it’s time for councillors to listen to me.”

At this point Topics heard an unidentified female councillor emit a light-hearted “Woo!”, but we are not clear if this was supportive or ironic.

Anyway, back to Robbo.

“About a month ago a lady called Rita called me. Rita called me because of the great stink that was going on in Hexham. I’m not talking about the kind of stink that was in Canberra last week; I’m talking about the kind of stink that would make you vomit if you were downwind.”

And so on.

The independent councillor raised some good points about the “third-world conditions” the people of Hexham have been subjected to because Hunter Water has not forked out the dough to install reticulated sewerage and about the potential for poo to leak into the nearby wetlands.

All in all, a decent, if somewhat belated, debut performance.   

Asked after the meeting why this particular issue had stirred his juices, Robbo said he was sympathetic to Rita’s plight … and he owned four properties at Hexham.

He said he had asked council officers if it was OK for him to speak on the subject, given his personal interest. Topics, for one, is glad no one stood in the way of history.

Tram ahoy!

The Hoegh Jeddah. Picture:

The Hoegh Jeddah. Picture:

Norwegian-flagged cargo ship Hoegh Jeddah is steaming its way up the coast with a precious cargo aboard.

Topics-friendly shipping expert Richard O’Connor tells us the 58,000-tonne ro-ro (roll-on roll-off) freighter is carrying the first Urbos 100 Newcastle light rail vehicle (LRV) from Spain. (Disclosure: The ever-alert people at The Portside Local have also been all over the story.)    

Excitement is building in the Topics bunker, which overlooks the tram tracks and will have a front-row seat when the ship drops anchor (do they do that?) at West Basin 4 berth at Carrington. 

We saw a contractor running a survey trolley over the tracks in Hunter Street the other day and note the charge bars are in place at some of the tram stops. (We look forward to the day when the word “pantograph” is in regular usage around breakfast tables across Newcastle.)  

Hunter Development Corporation has also started running ads encouraging people not to get hit by LRV. Sage advice.

HDC supremo Michael Cassel, having seen 83 containers slide off the deck of a Liberian-registered container ship near Newcastle in June, has been emphasising the tram is safely tucked down in the hold.     

Richard tells us the Hoegh Jeddah encountered some “pretty rough weather around the Bay of Islands”, but it has survived that ordeal and is due to arrive about 2pm on Saturday.