It seems democracy doesn’t matter much to the current Western Australian government. Their response to three referendums telling them “no” to daylight saving (the last two after trial periods of one year) is to try and force it on Western Australians without a vote, with the staunch support of our limited media sources (The West Australian and News Ltd, who’ve adopted almost a preachy tone in recent issues on the subject). Their strongest supporters are Labor MPs for some of the newest Perth areas, many of whose people clearly would like Western Australia to conform to their ideas of home, much as the English did when they arrived here in 1829 and started trying to plant English gardens and social rules wherever they went in complete defiance of the local weather and climate.
Now I know that some (including some of my friends) would like to see it come in, but not one person has given me a good reason why it should be implemented. I’ve heard a lot of derision about somewhat obscure arguments relating to dairy farming and faded curtains, but that is not and has never been the reasoning of myself and those I know who have argued against it.
Many of the reasons given offer no benefit to Perth, a city of seemingly eternal summer sunshine at 32°S latitude. A point often missed by commentators is that the benefits enjoyed by Melburnians in particular relate to their higher latitude – at around 38°S, there is more difference between summer and winter. At that latitude, entire nights can be made light by the idea, with almost no sacrifice in the mornings, due to longer daylight hours to start with. They compensate by having comparatively short days to Perth in winter. I saw this in Vancouver, Canada, as well, a city of 49°N latitude where the sun was setting at almost 10pm in the peak of summer under daylight saving, and rising at 4am.
In Perth, however, this seasonal variance is much slighter. The shortest day rises two hours later and sets two hours earlier than in winter. In Geraldton and in our mining centres this is as little as 45 minutes. At the other end of the day, for three months of the period one is getting up in the dark to go to work or school if one has any kind of commute at all. With such a vast state, cutting it in half is impractical, especially when strong trading relationships exist within the state – I briefly worked in the transport industry (sorry to disappoint, just data entry :)) and was forever sending truckloads of stuff to places all over the northwest and Kimberley.
The second issue is one of weather. Anyone who has been to, or spent any time in Melbourne, Sydney or Newcastle will know that the sort of dry, open sunshine we get for months on end in Perth simply doesn’t happen there. I well remember my first visit to Melbourne in mid-January 1997 where it was 42 one day then 22 and wet the next – the words “four seasons in one day” seem to have been written for it. Sydney’s humidity, having a sub-tropical rather than temperate climate despite being 2° latitude south of us, ensures the burning sun requiring SPF 30+ for even short exposures isn’t nearly the issue there that it is here. What converted me and, it seems, a number of people during the last trial was that kids coming home from school were now doing it at 2pm in GMT+8 instead of 3pm, which as we all remember falls within the sun danger zone. Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, and WA the highest within Australia. We should be doing everything we can as a state to get this level down.
Thirdly, and very importantly, the fact that a majority of Western Australians do not want it. I raise the issue neutrally wherever I go and it seems to go about 2/3 in favour of the status quo.
Finally, the “everybody else is doing it so why can’t we” argument. We live in a globalised world where our primary resources are our main export and our primary clients are in Asia. By some blessing of geography, we are in the same time zone as Singapore, Malaysia and China. Also, our partners in the US, Europe etc go the opposite direction – some nationally based companies with predominant trading relationships with Europe have located their national head offices in Perth or Brisbane to take advantage of this.
What a few eastern states (not even all) decided to do at some point in the 1970s for reasons that made sense in their climate and circumstances does not bind us into some sort of inferiority complex mentality that we have to somehow “keep up” with the “eastern states”. It’s such a parochial mentality, and the fact so many Sydneysiders are moving here suggests otherwise anyway.
I say fix the shopping hours and never mind the whingers, or the cows. 🙂 The state government should be focussing on core issues like health and education and not trying to divide the community on non-issues.