Sunday Roast: Robbo don't go!

Peter Robinson retiring magazine cover

ALMOST one in four Japanese people are what would politely be referred to as old farts.

Official figures tell us that 24 percent of their population in 2012 was over the age of 65, the randomly chosen number at which Australians are expected to retire (but not for long, thanks to Uncle Joe Hockey).

By 2055, that number will climb to a staggering 38 percent. Sales of adult diapers will outstrip those of baby ones, and this is the powerful incentive behind companies like Lexus coming up with self-driving cars. Imagine a country whose roads are mostly filled with drivers who can’t remember where they’re taking their sweet time getting to. Self-driving, or co-piloted cars, are all about keeping the ageing population mobile, according to the boffins.

It’s a sobering thought even for Australia, where just 14 percent of us are currently entitled to a cheap bus pass, and the fact is we really need to get our heads around the idea of working longer, and, in many cases, not retiring at all.

I, for one, have just decided this is a great idea, thanks to Peter Robinson.

On Thursday night, the most revered, feared, beloved, charming, humble, hectoring, generous and fiercely passionate motoring journalist ever to fiercely clutch a notepad walked into a Sydney restaurant for what he thought was a small farewell dinner with 10 colleagues.

The look in his always-sparkling eyes when he saw that the room was actually filled with more than 60 people, some of whom had flown half way around the world just to be there for him, is one I wish all of his hundreds of thousands of fans could have seen.

Here was a man who has given so much – so much entertainment and information and, that word again, passion – being given something back; an outpouring of love and thanks that I simply can’t imagine anyone currently plying his trade receiving in the future.

Luminaries from around the world who couldn’t be there – Edsel Ford, Ian Callum, Ulrich Hackenberg – sent video messages of friendly chiding and deep respect. Those on the other side of the fence, the ones who faced his fierce questioning and fair but firm criticism, might disagree, at times, but here is a man who should never, ever retire.

Apparently this is the third time he has done so, but, having started at Wheels in 1971 and having just turned 70, many of us fear he may be serious this time. Surely there’s something apt about the Australian car industry effectively coming to an end in the same year as his luminous career.

But I still can’t understand why he wants to go, because I’ve never seen anyone who loves their work, every day, as much as he does. It could be the launch of the most awful econobox, or the seventh 12-hour day in a row on COTY, and yet Robbo will always be there, on the balls of his feet, leaning forward to listen, to learn, to teach, to talk, to share opinions. It’s not just a living for him, it is living.

Some years ago I had a job where I would interview self-made millionaires every week, and an annoying bunch of people they generally turned out to be. Some of them enjoyed their work, all of them enjoyed money, but even the ones whose lifestyle was all rock and roll and nights out with Keith Richards and Tommy Lee didn’t seem as happy, as fulfilled and filled with purpose as the tireless, epic Peter Robinson.

He should not be allowed to retire. An act of Parliament, a Hockey directive, should be issued to stop it happening. After all, 70 is just a number, as those of you in your 20s will no doubt be told in 20 years when the retirement age lifts to 75.

Seriously, Robbo, don’t go. We’ll throw you another party and prepare another farewell mag in five years if it helps.

Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.

Want free access to 5 years of Wheels archive content? Sign up now!