Heavy Plant

Walk past a "Heavy Plant" warning and wonder vaguely if the trees thought it was for them; if whoever put it up had enough imag...

Monday, November 07, 2005


'Daylight Savings' has always struck me as an odd term (an unnecessarily American phrase short on common sense). You can mess about with the clocks as much as you like, it won't make any difference to the amount of daylight there is; the universe has beaten you to it and the Earth is already spinning and in motion around the Sun. In Australia where the country is essentially accross 3 timezones this is the term of choice to describe the annual change in time keeping. Of course there is a uniquely Australian approach to it.

The UK is a lot further from the equator than any part of Australia and so is affected far more by the tilt of the Earth on its' axis - daylight hours in summer are from about 4am to just before 10pm, in the winter the sun just about rises at about 6am and sets at about 4pm. There has always been a split between the country and the city as to which end of the day the daylight should be given. The bumpkins want it in the morning so they aren't buggering about in the dark with cows and whatnot and everyone else wants it in the evening so that the six months of winter aren't a seemingly interminable twighlight. For some reasons the bumpkins get their way and everyone else has to deal with it getting dark at about half past three in the afternoon. Hmm... reduced light just as the schools are throwing children out on to the streets, that should thin out their numbers a little. One of the many advantages of not living in the UK any more is that I don't have to deal with this irritation.

Whilst the daylight hours are fairly regular here in Sydney there is a small difference in the amount of daylight at the ends of the day. In the depths of 'Winter' (it might rain and you should probably have a jumper, slightly too cold for shorts) the sun rises at about 6am and starts to set at a little after 5pm. In summer the sun rises at about 4.30am and sets at about 7pm. The difference is not hugely significant but it does mean you have a lot more dayligtht lesiure time after work when the clocks go forward. In Australia the city versus country split is somewhat larger with the vast majority of the population living in urban areas and unbelievably low population densities in the West and inland (0.3 people and thirty thousand kangaroos per 100sqkm). New South Wales has something like a third of the population of Australia and its most densely populated metropolitain areas. This means that the bumpkins get no say in the matter whatsoever. The clocks go forward an hour and the cows can bloody well get used to it.
Being an ex-colony, Australia has some remaining governmental peculiarities which are still practical because of it's geographic size. A bit like America Australia has state governments and a federal government. Both have parliaments and a Prime Minister but appears that Federal Government decisions have to be ratified by the State governments before implementation. It sounds clumsy and I won't pretend I know how this works but it doesn't seem to get in the way too much. It does however mean that individual states often have differing laws and a fair bit of independance. In the case of Queesnsland, where a larger percentage of the population is rural, they have applied this to Daylight Savings.

Queensland comprises the North East corner of Australia but its' metropolitain and business areas are really restricted to the East coast, there isn't very much of anything on the North coast (map) . Most of the populated areas of Australia as a whole are on the Eastern side of the country and all have Daylight Savings, even Tasmania where the recessive gene reigns supreme. Queensland has decided that changing the clocks twice a year isn't necessary and that they would rather not bother. Sounds like a bizarre arbitrary decision implemented by beaurocrats? Sadly not, this was a decision taken by a state-wide referendum in 1992.
Queensland: Putting the 'Pleb' back into plebiscite
Unsurprisingly this causes a few problems and the Southern Queenslanders are being made to regret the outcome of the referendum. Unfortunately the solutions being suggested are at least as daft as the problem itself; for example a voluntary Daylight Savings for those businesses it affects. This would mean that different sections of business and society would be operating an hour out of sync. If it was voluntary could you choose on a day by day basis if you want to use it or not? "No no, I'm not going home early. I'm on daylight savings time, honest." Another proposed solution is to have split time for half the year for a small proportion of the state, something which sounds equally as mad, as the boundary between the timezones whould not even be defined by state jurisdiction. Queensland is a state that is largely regarded as being populated by nutters and this has done nothing to improve image of the state as a whole. Queenslanders are consistently described to outsiders as "madder than cut snakes" and just about everyone in Australia calls Queenslanders "Banana Benders".

To be completely fair to Queensland the whole issue of time-zoning in Oz needs reworking. Adelaide is half an hour behind Sydney, not a whole hour, half an hour (half an hour and a couple of decades if you listen to most Sydneysiders). Parts of the Northern Territory are 30mins behind, other parts of it 45mins. Perth in Western Australia is 2 hours behind Sydney and should probably be 3, it is some four thousand kilometers away and it is quicker to fly to New Zealand than to Perth (Western Australia is not just a descriptive term it is the name of the state, about a third of Australia's land mass and a negligable amount of its' population).

Oh well, at least crazy beurocracy here hasn't quite gone as mad as putting in fake grass and plastic trees as is currently being trialed in Eindhoven.