THE FARCICAL MISHMASH of four time zones for 24 million people resumes tomorrow; coming just hours after the AFL Grand Final and coinciding with the finale of the NRL season — marking, obliquely, a passage from the sublime to the ridiculous, as Australian sport moves on to horses and pretty girls in dresses — the inefficiency, waste and confusion caused by daylight saving is again upon us for six months. It’s time for the circus to end.
It’s a less “heavy” post from me this morning, and I begin with a familiar apology to readers on account of the dearth of time I have had for posting comment; whilst the heavy workload I’m under is manageable, the additional impost inflicted by the medical fright* I have obliquely alluded to over the past two months will shortly be resolved as well: and whilst I’ll still be busier than a swarm of bees, the time I have been carving out to attend to the latter is about to draw to a close, and this is probably the difference between the three articles I’ve been delivering each week and at least another couple, so do bear with me.
I’ve read the editorial from this morning’s Brisbane Courier Mail, and whilst it contains a couple of errors of fact — Queenslanders (including, then, me) voted in a Daylight Saving referendum in 1991, not in 1992 as stated — I have to say I couldn’t agree more.
When those north of the Tweed last had their say on the permanent adoption of Daylight Saving, I voted against it.
But I did so with the explicit rider that had I lived in Melbourne, I would have been unreservedly supportive; I have of course lived in Melbourne now for almost 18 years, and whilst I don’t like the “extra hour of afternoon heat” that comes with Daylight Saving during the most unpleasant excesses of summer, the fact it remains twilight until almost 10pm during the longest days of the year (and is light enough first thing in the morning) outweighs that concern.
When I lived in Brisbane, it was still dark by 7.30pm — even during the three-year trial of Daylight Saving introduced by the Ahern government in 1989.
But time, experience, and the passage of more of life’s journey can evolve perspectives, and it certainly has in my own case.
True to its reputation of being “different” — a euphemism if ever there was — some of the arguments advanced against Daylight Saving in the so-called Sunshine State back in those days were ridiculous; the birds at the Currumbin Bird Sanctuary on the Gold Coast, for example, were said to be disinclined to show up an hour early to be fed.
The same was said of country cows, who lacked comprehension of time zone changes, and would supposedly fail to arrive for milking at 4am…because they would still believe it to be 3am.
And my favourite was the effect Daylight Saving would have “on the curtains,” and watching Gerry Connolly’s Gerrymander Joh And The Last Crusade at Brisbane’s Twelfth Night Theatre in December 1989, audience members were treated to the disgusting spectacle of “Flo” hanging the most flatulently garish curtains at the Bjelke-Petersen ranch in Kingaroy, assuring the neighbour who had “popped in for a cuppa” not to worry about the hideous pattern on them because “they’ll be bleached white in no time with all this extra daylight we’re having.”
It is difficult to believe intelligent people could ever come up with this sort of rubbish. But the truly deleterious effects of Daylight Saving are no laughing matter.
In the almost quarter of a century that has passed since that ill-fated 1991 referendum, Brisbane has changed; no longer the archaic backwater that closes at 5pm and all weekend every weekend, the Brisbane lifestyle has evolved to make far more use of the daylight hours for recreational purposes than has ever been the case.
Businesses on the Gold Coast (which have traditionally driven any Daylight Saving push in Queensland) these days simply ignore the time change, and turn their clocks forward to synchronise them with their neighbours south of the Tweed River.
The cost in lost economic output and waste from the hotchpotch of time zones that exist for half the year has been estimated at $4 billion — a lot of money at the best of times, and inefficiency and waste that can scarcely be justified as the economic climate turns decidedly sour.
And the instrument of Daylight Saving itself seems to have become a de facto vehicle for state chauvinism and the persistence of States’ Rights that are becoming increasingly difficult to demarcate or even justify in a modern, integrated society such as Australia’s.
In theory, I spend a day each week commuting to Brisbane and back at present: and from this coming week onward, airline schedules become truly confusing, as flights to Brisbane take (on paper) one hour, whilst the return leg takes a little over three.
I am dependent on the latest departure possible on the return leg, on account of what I’m going for; to ensure flights arrive and depart in Melbourne at the same time all year round (and by extension, on other routes to the southern states) all of those departures become one hour earlier tomorrow — which scarcely helps business travellers requiring a full day interstate.
And having alluded to the little medical issue I have been working against of late, after the most recent incident Qantas barred me from flying until the condition was diagnosed and resolved (which will happen this week) — and I spent the following two days driving the length of the Newell Highway to get home: I raise this because Australia isn’t a series of petty fiefdoms, but a continuous, rolling plain that merely changes the further you go; there is no border checkpoint at Goondiwindi, or Tocumwal, or anywhere else. To arrange the country as if there were is fatuous, and a relic of a bygone era that belongs in the history books and not in the 21st century.
It’s only a few weeks since we last looked at Daylight Saving: through the lens of vacuous expediency and cheap political frippery deployed by South Australia’s Liberal Party to scuttle a move to permanently align that state’s time zone with New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania; filled with imbecilic righteousness and a sadly misguided sense of self-importance, serial embarrassment and senior Liberal Vickie Chapman spoke of a need to remain “in sync with northern trading partners” (in Darwin, of all places) and to avoid becoming “a western suburb of Sydney” as the Liberals’ brain-dead reasons for torpedoing what was objectively a pretty good idea.
The same sense of faux righteousness emanates out of Queensland irrespective of who is in office these days; the LNP claims to be defending the small business community by acting to preserve the status quo, whilst Labor simply claims there is no consensus on the issue despite its platform committing it to Daylight Saving for decades.
I understand there are parts of Queensland — its rural west and its far north, for instance — in which Daylight Saving really isn’t a fit; these are the areas that hardly depend on efficient or harmonious accord with what goes in in the southern states, and which can and indeed should probably be left to their own devices.
But the south-east — say, from Noosa and Coolum to the border, and west to take in Ipswich and perhaps the Warwick/Toowoomba arc, depending on local sentiment — really should be brought into line with the vast majority of the population that lies south of the Tweed, and as the Courier Mail correctly notes, majority support in the south-east for such a move existed even at the time of the 1991 referendum.
But there is a bigger issue here; does Australia remain a series of disparate former colonies that reluctantly tolerate each other’s existence, or is the country evolving toward being a united, single nation?
Some express surprise whenever, as an unabashed conservative, I express my view that the states are basically redundant; far from the mad centralism the likes of former Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen would accuse anyone of if they dared suggest abolishing state government, I actually advocate the opposite: a federal government devolving responsibility wherever possible to a system of beefed-up local authorities, and getting rid of one tier of government in a ridiculously and indefensibly overgoverned country.
It’s an argument for another time, of course. But this internecine sniping over daylight saving is a symptom of national dysfunction, not some machismo expression of the bona fides of states’ rights.
If you look at any global map of time zones internationally, these are not crisp, clean, and do not run in straight vertical lines: there goes that theory, and debunks the cretinous argument of Vickie Chapman for good measure.
It’s high time someone took some leadership, moved South Australia and the Northern Territory onto the same time zone as the eastern states — ignoring mental midgets like Chapman and charlatans like everyone in the Queensland Parliament, it seems — and bring as much of the eastern half of the country into sync.
There are ample provisions in the Constitution to justify the Commonwealth instituting such a change, even if the charge of riding roughshod over “sovereign” states becomes the next irresponsible political fraud to be kicked around the place as a consequence.
Frankly, if an elected federal government using the mechanisms available to it to override the irresponsibility and posturing of hillbilly state politicians whose usefulness in the big scheme of things is a colonial relic ruffles a few feathers, then so be it.
AND ANOTHER THING: with the Grand Final set to begin in a few hours in Melbourne, my tip; with no disrespect to my old mates in Brisbane, I am not interested in what happens in the NRL — having grown up a Carlton supporter many years before God invented the Brisbane Bears — but I wish those who love their rugby a great game tomorrow.
Obviously, with my beloved Blues not playing in finals this year, I don’t have anything invested in what transpires at the MCG this afternoon.
Yet by the same token — and this used to rankle friends when I lived in Brisbane and refused point-blank to abandon Carlton (or even find my way clear to make supportive utterances of the Bears when they sputtered into the competition in 1987) — I only ever support an interstate side when they play Collingwood and especially Essendon, which I utterly and absolutely despise (and would barrack for a freight train en route to the MCG against the Bombers if I thought there was some prospect it could prevent them winning).
Seriously, the present iteration of the Hawthorn Football Club is the best football side the national game has seen since the Brisbane Lions of 2001-03, and probably the Hawthorn and Carlton sides of 1979-1991 before them; that brown and gold outfit that has already won three flags from four Grand Finals over seven years has another opportunity today, and I am convinced Hawthorn will prevail.
The West Coast side they face is a seriously impressive unit, and cannot be dismissed out of hand today; there is the realistic prospect they will score a lucky strike this afternoon and will be worthy winners if they do.
But I see the Weagles as potentially next year’s champions rather than today’s, and faced with a battle-hardened opponent at its ruthless best almost every time the big occasion demands it — and especially when backed into a corner — it is impossible to believe Hawthorn won’t add to its legend as one of the best sides to ever play Australian football when it lines up against West Coast at the G this afternoon.
Hawthorn by 27 points.
*For those who’ve expressed concern in comments, I can assure them I am perfectly all right — perfectly all right — but the “stroke” symptoms that triggered a flight diversion to Sydney when I was returning home from Brisbane seven weeks ago have turned out to have been caused by one of the myriad of harmless (albeit unpleasant) afflictions that mimic a stroke but which have nothing to do with the brain or a stroke at all: I have the extremely rare condition baroparesis facialis which is believed drastically under-reported (I’m the 24th confirmed case worldwide) that is simply an ear problem in which pressure changes caused half my face to collapse at 37,000 feet — and would have righted itself upon return to sea level if unattended to.
Regrettably, confirming that diagnosis (at considerable expense) has had me spend some days in total with a raft of specialists and included a whole-day field trip down an MRI tunnel last week…the “cure,” at age 43 (which may or may not relieve the problem) is a grommet — the sort of thing I never had as a child — but then that should be that.
I’m lucky it was nothing sinister (and with excellent BP and blood numbers, it shouldn’t have been anyway) but it’s better for medicos to err on the scary side first and work backwards rather than the other way around…thanks for the concern people have shown too. Happily, it seems it has been a false alarm this time. 🙂