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Daylight saving in the sunshine state of Queensland

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Former Queensland Premier Mike Ahern first proposed the idea of Queensland adopting daylight saving (image via YouTube)

On 1 January 2021, the 1990 Queensland Cabinet Papers were released, including a Cabinet Minute on “Options in Relation to Daylight Saving”.

In August 1989, the sun was setting on then-National Party Queensland Premier Mike Ahern’s parliamentary career. Having just survived a leadership spill within his own party, the National Party leader decided to go against his party’s advice and announce a one-year daylight saving trial.

One of his last acts as Premier was to introduce legislation to get the trial up and running by the summer of 1989.

On 2 December 1989, the sun set on 32 years of conservative rule in Queensland, when 38-year old lawyer Wayne Goss claimed victory in a Labor landslide. Goss and Labor scored a 24 seat swing, the worst defeat of a sitting government up until that time in Queensland.

Voters had clearly grown tired of the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era and the stench of corruption uncovered by Tony Fitzgerald QC. With the election of Goss and Labor, Queensland was rescued from the deep chasm of corruption, self-indulgence and arrogance it had fallen into.

Queensland had briefly used Daylight Saving during WWI and again during WWII for three summers as a means to conserve fuel. Queensland again trialled daylight saving in the summer of 1971-1972. The Bjelke-Petersen Government was of the view that Queensland’s geography was not suited to daylight saving.

The Goss Government went ahead with the daylight saving trial over the summer of 1989-1990. The daylight savings taskforce identified that the:

'Brisbane and Moreton regions were clearly in favour of daylight saving but the other regions were not.'

More than 89% of written submissions were not in favour of daylight saving, with people citing the climate, family lifestyle, meals, television news, long days, skin cancer and primary production as reasons they opposed it. 1990 Cabinet Papers show the recommendation was the clocks only be wound forward in south-east Queensland.

In August 1990, the Cabinet agreed to introduce legislation to enact daylight saving across the state 'on a permanent basis'. However, the legislation was not to be enacted until the end of the three-year trial extension.

A referendum on the issue held on 22 February 1992 asked the question:

'Are you in favour of daylight saving?'

Queenslander’s came back with a 54.5% “no” vote.

Election analyst Antony Green noted:

“In the 53 seats in the urban south east, the Yes vote won 60.6% to 39.4%, with the yes vote passing 70% in the southern Gold Coast. In the 36 seats covering the rest of the state, the Yes vote was clobbered 22.9% to 77.1% No.”

The implementation of daylight saving in Queensland is a perennial issue that rears its head every 5 or 10 years. It will never be accepted by Queenslanders outside South-East Queensland. The only option for establishing daylight saving in Queensland would require a two-zone system.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh stated in 2010:

“I intend to be a Premier for the whole State – not just one part – therefore my Government will not introduce daylight saving in Queensland“.

To force through a two-zone system in Queensland may well be the catalyst for a separate state for North Queensland.

Below is a speculative flash fiction short story I wrote in response to the perennial daylight saving debate in Queensland: Saving Time in the Sunshine State.

It all began with the Daylight Saving fiasco in Queensland in 2016. The Queensland vote went against falling-in-line with the other eastern states, so the Federal Government intervened to force time consistency.

 

In hindsight, it is absurd how Queensland police enforced Federal Legislation by inspecting clocks in government buildings to check for time compliance. But absurdity and impossibilities stand side-by-side in a world where live piranhas in glass handbags are the celebrity fashion accessory of choice.

 

The crunch came in the summer of 2018. It became downright ugly when North Queenslanders, like my grandmother in Charters Towers, were busted for time cheating.

 

My Gran. So many clocks in her house. Gran loved clocks — clocks with chimes, clocks that dinged and donged on the hour and half-hour, a cuckoo clock, and even one with a cat on its face that gave a sickening meow every quarter hour.

 

But the most frustrating thing of all was that not one of these clocks kept the same time. In Gran’s home, time was never accurate but it could always be heard. I guess she never had to be anywhere at a set time. Her life was very fluid. Days merged into each other. Week days, weekends — they all had a sameness.

 

Not that Gran’s life wasn’t full and rich. But it wasn’t constrained by the work-a-day weeks that bind most of us. “Gran Time” we called it. For her, time was never uniform, singular or predictable. It was relative. To what, we never knew. But when she was told all her clocks had to be set to the new ‘Canberra Time’ you could almost hear the cogs in her mind synchronise for the coming battle.

 

Here’s the nub. The feisty old girl not only refused to turn forward her clock the mandated hour, but also started saving daylight.

 

I’d guess the sunshine hoarding was what alerted the Federal Time Marshal about Gran. It was all over the house. Drawers overflowing with it. Cupboards full. A spare room packed to the rafters with sunshine. Boxes of it stacked in the hallway and under the beds. And all her curtains faded from the inside.

 

My Gran had compensated for what had been taken from her by Federal intervention with her own sunshine bank. Who knew, though, what could be the effect of so much banked sunshine?

 

When the Time Marshal and the Queensland Police burst through Gran’s front door one Sunday morning they were first hit by a blinding burst of sunshine, then an overpowering smell of food that had rotted well before its expiry date. And there, sitting on her favourite blue-patterned sofa, wearing huge welding glasses, was my now teenage Gran, her internal body clock reversed from so much living within her own sunshine state.

 

My Gran, the time cheat, had just cheated time.

You can follow Dr Glenn Davies on Twitter @DrGlennDavies.

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