The issue of daylight saving time comes up in Queensland twice a year, when other Australian states move their clocks forward in spring and back again in autumn. Queensland observed daylight saving time in 1971-72 when most of the other states adopted it for the first time since World War II. Opposition to it meant it only lasted one season in Queensland. The next occasion the state had daylight saving time was from 1989-90 to 1991-92. Its continued use was defeated in a referendum and the state has not had daylight saving time since.
Opinion polls show that people in the highly populated south-east, centred on state capital Brisbane, want daylight saving time but those in regional and rural areas are against it. The Queensland government has always been reluctant to divide the state into two time zones, claiming it would be confusing and divisive. However, state premier Anna Bligh recently said daylight saving time in the south-east might be viable, which would set up a dual time zone in Queensland over the summer months. This has led to numerous supporters and opponents of daylight saving time coming out of the woodwork with the usual arguments for and against the practice and whether two time zones would be workable.
Queensland is a large and diverse state. To put things in perspective, it is a fraction larger than Alaska, easily the largest of the US states. It is two and a half times bigger than Texas, and seven times the size of the United Kingdom. Queensland is also very diverse, with large areas of desert, a hot and humid coastal belt in the north, and a temperate area in the south, which can vary from subtropical to below freezing. Just over half the state lies in the tropics. The state extends from longitude 138 degrees to 153 degrees east and from latitude 10 degrees to 29 degrees south. There are bound to be controversies relating to time zones and daylight saving time in a state or country of the size and diversity of Queensland.
The whole state uses GMT+10 (that is, 10 hours ahead of Greenwich) as its standard time zone. Brisbane, in the state’s far south-east, has a solar time of GMT+10:12. In most places around the world, standard time is later than solar time and, in many, a hour of daylight saving time is added on in summer. Because south-east Queensland’s solar time is ahead of its standard time and it doesn’t have daylight saving time, it starts getting light very early in the warmer months. The first inkling of daylight in Brisbane in mid summer is just after 4am and the sun is up by 4.45am. At the other end of the day, the sun sets very early, at 6.45pm and it is dark by 7.30pm.
In other parts of the state, the situation is quite different. In the city of Cairns on the tropical north coast, sunrise is just after 5.30am and sunset is close to 7pm in mid summer. Cairns has a solar time of GMT+9:42, so it already ‘saves’ half an hour more daylight than Brisbane. In Mount Isa in the state’s far west, the sun never rises much earlier than 6am and sets around 7.30pm in January. Solar time in Mount Isa is GMT+9:18, meaning it ‘saves’ nearly an hour of daylight compared with the south-east. So there is less need to turn the clocks forward in these areas. If Mount Isa had daylight saving time, by early April sunrise would be at 7.50am.
Queensland’s regional and rural areas are generally against daylight saving time, especially farming communities. Farm work starts at dawn regardless of what the clock says, and to have schools, shops, factories, and markets starting an hour earlier in real time would give farmers an hour less to do their morning tasks. Also, in tropical areas, the benefits of daylight saving time are few, as day and night do not vary much in length, especially if their solar time is earlier than their standard time, as in Queensland.
While the case for daylight saving time in much of Queensland is weak, it is quite strong in the south-east corner. This area is well away from the tropics. Later sunrise and sunset times should save electricity as artificial light is needed for an hour less in the evening. It should also mean a reduction in road accidents and assaults as fewer people would be travelling home after dark. There would be time after tea to mow the lawn, go for a walk or bike ride, play sport, or shop before nightfall. Daylight saving time is favoured by retail, tourist, and other businesses as it usually means an increase in sales. Even one’s biological clock would be better off if daylight wasn’t so early in the morning; in colder climates shutters are used but south-east Queensland is too warm for that. Residents at the southern end of the Gold Coast, a city of over half a million people, would be on the same time in summer as the adjoining urban area of Tweed Shire just across the New South Wales border.
Countries in the same latitude as south-east Queensland who observe daylight saving time include Chile from 1966-67, Paraguay from 1975-76, Brazil from 1985-86 and some earlier post-war years, Namibia from 1994-95, Mexico from 1996, Western Sahara and Morocco from 2008, Egypt from 1957, Iran in most years since 1991, as well as the US states of Texas and Florida. Argentina, Algeria, and Libya have had daylight saving from time to time. South Africa, Pakistan, India, China, and Bangladesh have used it less frequently.
If south-east Queensland had daylight saving time while the rest of the state stayed on standard time, the state would not be the only one to be in more than one time zone. In the US, 15 states straddle two time zones 12 months of the year, due to the practicalities of having standard time close to solar time. Parts of Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida are in the Central and Eastern time zones. North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas cross both Central and Mountain time zones. Idaho, Oregon, and Nevada sit in the Mountain and Pacific time zones. For Alaska, the Aleutian Islands are in a different time zone to the rest of the state. Similarly, six Canadian provinces and territories cross time zones: Quebec, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Nunavut.
The Daylight Saving for South East Queensland Party claims that “a Google search (two time zones + name of state/province + controversy / debate / argument) could not find one reference to any controversy with regard to two time zones in one state. Indeed, in one article about Indiana the authors remark that in the USA there seems to be a remarkable lack of controversy with regard to two time zones in one state.” (http://www.daylightsavingseq.com.au/documents/Daylight_saving_in_southeast_Queensland.doc)
In Australia, there are already instances of a state using two time zones. Broken Hill in far western New South Wales (GMT+10) uses South Australian time (GMT+9:30). In Western Australia (GMT+8), several towns in the south-east, near the South Australian border, use their own unofficial time zone of GMT+8:45. In north Queensland, island resorts in the Whitsunday area use daylight saving time, as do many Gold Coast residents and visitors.
A south-east Queensland daylight saving time zone would follow the boundaries of local government areas in this part of the state and would not plough through the middle of any urban area. There will always be people inconvenienced by different time zones. However, it would appear that daylight saving time and standard time zone controversies and divisiveness are more likely to occur due to large countries and states imposing one time for all rather than being split across several zones.