Travel Diary – The Lighter Side

We call this the Travel Diary because we pick up the topics of the day and make entries as we go.  We focus here on the “lighter side” of conflict management.



30 March 2012

1:  Monorail Vision


NSW to dismantle Sydney Monorail, Hobart Councilor indicates interest in it.

A summary of the bidding through newspapers:

Ron*: G’day Barry**, how are you? Anything big happening lately?

Barry: G’day Ron. Let’s see; oh yeah, we’re taking down the monorail, no use to us any more, trying to get rid of it.

Ron:    Hey, we might like to get hold of that. Instead of throwing it out, we’ll take it off your hands.

Barry: Make me an offer.

Ron:    Offer? You’re joking! How about $1? Out of my own pocket.

Barry: It’s worth a lot more than that. I’m not going to give it away.

Ron:    You’re going to chuck it out!

Barry: Not now that I know you want it. Now I want to sell it, for big money.

Ron:    You should give it to Hobart as a gift.

Barry: Pay up.

Ron:    Give it away.

Barry: No.

Ron:    Yes.


Why can’t our leaders have more imagination, a bigger view of opportunities, better discussions and more sense about negotiating?  Like this:

Ron*: G’day Barry**, how are you? Anything big happening lately?

Barry: G’day Ron. Let’s see; oh yeah, we’re taking down the monorail

Ron:    Gee Barry, that might create some real opportunities.  Why have you decided to do that?

Barry:  The monorail is really underutilised, its passenger cars are nearing the end of their useful life, its location prevents us from completing some major redevelopment projects and implementing a comprehensive transit plan for the CBD; really not worth keeping it going.  Why do you ask, Ron?

Ron:    Well, we have been looking at putting in some kind of dedicated transit system serving the Hobart CBD. We’ve done a number of studies but the cost of a new system always seems prohibitive.

Barry: That’s a challenging problem. Is there any way to link our issues?

Ron:    Well, we won’t know for sure without further discussion, but since you want to get rid of the monorail and we want a rail system, maybe we could transfer the monorail to Hobart in a way that would

a) recycle the monorail instead of throwing it out;

b) reduce the cost for NSW of removing and dealing with it;

c) reduce the cost for Hobart of installing a rail system;

d) recognise that reducing cost in Hobart for such a project actually benefits NSW in terms of reducing the overall Commonwealth burden for infrastructure, and thereby may either free up Commonwealth dollars for other NSW projects or reduce the need for additional revenue to be gathered and distributed by Canberra;

e) generate some economic activity for NSW in the dismantling and for Hobart in the construction;

f) allow for transfer at a mutually acceptable value, and if necessary a determination of cost based on legitimate measures such as cost of disposal/scrap value less dismantling costs;

g) show co-operation and recognition of mutual interest between two state governments for the benefit of their citizens.

Barry: Those sound like really worthwhile goals. Why don’t we sit down and work out what the options might be, and see if some kind of arrangement would be mutually beneficial?

Ron:    Thanks, Barry. When can we meet?

In the words of Jake Barnes in Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”: “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

*Christie, Deputy Lord Mayor, Hobart, Tasmania

**O’Farrell, Premier, NSW



22 May 2012


My twin boys were fighting last week—you know, typical kid stuff.

-Dad, Harry went into my half of the wardrobe and took my ball.

-I did not!

-Did too!

-George, you said I could have it.  You know you did, you big fat liar.

-Did not!

-Did too!

-It’s not your ball anyway; Gran gave it to me for my birthday.

-She gave it to us, you dimwit; we have the same birthday.

-Don’t call me dimwit. Dad, tell him to stop.  You’re not supposed to call people names. You’re a ratbag. And she did not, she gave me the ball and you got the bat.

-She gave them both to both of us.

-That’s not what you said when you took the bat to school when I told you not to. …And then you lost it. You don’t deserve to have it, even if it is yours–which it isn’t.

-I didn’t lose it, I lent it to Evan. Evan lost it.

-You shouldn’t have given it to Evan. Evan loses everything, all the time.

-Anyway, he found the bat at Hugh’s, and I’m getting it tomorrow.  So there … dimwit ratbag.

-Takes one to know one, and you went into my half of the wardrobe last week and took my school jumper. Dad, he took my jumper last week.

-Did not!

-Did too, and you tore it.

-I did not, Craig tore it, and Mum says she can fix it.


I sat them down and carefully reviewed a few basic ideas that we live by in this household—ideas that they’d heard before, but that sometimes need to be reinforced if ten-year-olds are going to remember them.

One, that we respect each other, so instead of just accusing and fighting we sit down and talk out these types of issues.

Two, that we deal with concerns as they arise; dragging up the past to create blame, make excuses, or cover up and avoid dealing with a current problem is not helpful.

Three, that if we set rules, then we all follow them, even if it means we face consequences as a result.

Four, that we are careful about how we say things, because what goes around comes around, and most likely comes around just when you think you have escaped.

Suitably chastened, they then sorted out what to do about the ball and about access to each other’s wardrobe space.  Sanity was restored.

So you can imagine my extreme sense of frustration when I came home from work yesterday and all I could hear from the lounge room was more of the same: pointless arguing, blaming, recriminations and “did too, did nots”, and a complete failure to deal responsibly with the real issues at hand.

Striding swiftly down the hall, I entered the lounge and turned off the question time segment blaring on the parliamentary channel. Then I went outside to join Harry and George, who were playing cricket together with their birthday bat and ball.


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