Editorial Opinion: Saving more than just daylight

In the extended entry I have an early draft of an editorial opinion on Daylight Saving I plan to send to the papers after an edit in the next week or so. All comments gratefully received.


Saving more than just daylight
Joanne Jacobs

The current focus on Daylight Saving is often characterised by cynics as just another pointless attempt by passionate but misguided advocates to denigrate the appeal of Queensland as the only state on God’s Own Time. But there is a difference in the current campaign. The notion of separating Queensland into two time zones is actually gaining the support of South East Queensland, and Premier Peter Beattie is genuinely considering the possibility of Daylight Saving adoption for the South Eastern corner in the near future.

Since I began the e-petition at the Local Government Association of Queensland site (http://petitionsqld.com.au/), recommending adoption of Daylight Saving in South Eastern Queensland (SEQ), I have been bombarded with hate mail as well as messages of fervent support, but most of all I’ve been impressed with the level of thought being put in to arguments for Daylight Saving in the SEQ region. Gone are the absurd and embarrassing arguments from the Bjelke-Peterson era, about the curtains fading and the cows not knowing when to be milked or the chickens not knowing when to lay eggs, and in their place are clear arguments about the passage of sunlight across the planet, and changes to social habits in the family, as well as the costs of failing to convert to Daylight Saving for businesses based in this region.

I’ve received some messages expressing concern about the logistics of breaking the state up in to two time zones, but increasingly the validity of this move is gaining support as people begin to address the question in a more dispassionate and open manner than has previously been experienced. And as the facts emerge from a sea of misinformed rhetoric, the logic of a dual time zone for Queensland becomes clear.

We live in a vast state. 1.72 million square kilometres, Queensland is seven and half times the size of Victoria and more than twice the size of New South Wales. It could fit the entire United Kingdom in its land area seven times over. And if you just start in the west of the state, and travel due east to Brisbane, you cover the same basic distance as you would travelling from London to Berlin. Oh and incidentally, London and Berlin are on two different time zones – an hour apart.

The sun rises in Mount Isa in the west of the state at the moment at 5:52am. It rises in Brisbane at 4:45am. The sun sets in Mount Isa at 7:07pm. It sets in Brisbane at 6:26pm. So Brisbane in SEQ is nearly an hour separated from Mount Isa in terms of light. Several people who have been against my petition for Daylight Saving in SEQ point out that the declination of the planet and the way the sun rises in an east-southeast direction, and sets in a west-southwest direction fail to realise the very important point that if you separate just the section of Queensland that receives and loses light earlier than the rest of the state – the SEQ corner – and place it on a Daylight Saving timezone, then you actually bring the state into line with activity occurring across the state at large in terms of how light is consumed.

So geography and light patterns across the state would tend to support the separation of SEQ from the rest of the state, in the adoption of Daylight Saving.

But that’s only the first aspect of the argument.

Our lives are governed by schedules. Our children must always start school at the same time, and our child care and public transport systems revolve around the same scheduling for care purposes. Retail businesses create efficiencies for shoppers by opening at the same time and banks and other financial service operations follow the same schedules. So the often-cited argument that people in the SEQ corner should “just get up an hour earlier if they want Daylight Saving” is a preposterous suggestion. In order to accommodate the schedules which govern our practices in business and for families, we need a clear choice for all businesses, schools and service industries to make the same choice – and to suggest that we all choose to go to work and school an hour earlier without changing the clocks to reflect such a change is rather short-sighted. The implications of such an action would cause more trouble than a simple time zone distinction between the SEQ corner and the rest of the state.

Then there’s the cost to business. And this is a much greater problem than has ever been clearly stated. Most of the businesses that are negatively affected by the failure to adopt Daylight Saving in Queensland are based in the SEQ corner. This is the region where service and retail businesses flourish, and where the majority of businesses that have dealings with organisations along the eastern seaboard of the country are based. Unlike the primary industries sector and mining and tourism regions in the north and west of the state, the SEQ corner focuses its energies on businesses predominantly operating on 9am-5pm schedules, and relies heavily on the investment of the southern states for its growth and prominence as population centre. The prediction is that by 2020, the population of Queensland will outrank the population of Victoria. The majority of that population growth will come from migration from the southern states, and it will occur primarily in the industrialised and service-oriented SEQ corner. Like it or not, the influence of the southern states is growing in this region, and its progress in inexorable. But at the moment in the SEQ corner, the failure to adopt Daylight Saving is seriously affecting the productivity of this region and its competitiveness nationally. Daylight Saving adoption in the southern states effectively means that SEQ businesses lose two hours of operation – first before south east Queenslanders arrive at work at 9am, and then again at the end of the day when the southerners have gone home and south east Queenslanders are still at work. And if business people have meetings in Melbourne or Sydney at 9am over summer, they must fly down the evening before and pay for accommodation in order to ensure they make their meetings on time. The stock exchange is affected, the operation of financial reconciliation services, tourism booking services and gaming are affected, and even telephone messaging systems essential to the service industries sector can cause problems. The real costs to businesses of failing to adopt are high. The costs to the primary industries sector and other businesses in the north and west of the state in dealing with possible problems associated with a second time zone in SEQ are low. A very simple cost-benefit analysis indicates clearly that Daylight Saving in SEQ is likely to save the region far more than just daylight.

I’d like to conclude with the plan ahead for forwarding the campaign for adoption of Daylight Saving in SEQ. In March 2007, a rally will be held in Brisbane, and a symposium for the Premier and Lords Mayor of relevant SEQ councils is planned to determine appropriate borders for a summer Daylight Saving zone. The Premier has been quoted as considering putting the issue to a referendum for the state in 2007, and has been open to the notion of a dual time zone for Queensland.

Those of us who have worked on this petition and previous petitions for Daylight Saving in Queensland welcome the opportunity to participate in rational and considered debate on the issue, and we are looking forward to a period when the logic of Daylight Saving in SEQ overcomes the darkness of poorly conceived rhetoric.

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