17/09/2008 - 22:00

Daylight between opposing views

17/09/2008 - 22:00

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THE world is full of strange anomalies created by some geographer's artificial line in the sand.

THE world is full of strange anomalies created by some geographer's artificial line in the sand.

In some places, border traffic can be brisk as people take advantage of tax breaks or seek to escape social repression.

I recall many years ago taking a river exit from Brunei, a country where Muslim convention dictates many of the laws, to the Malaysian state of Sabah, which was less restrictive. My destination turned out to be something of an Asian version of the Wild West, with pubs, clubs and brothels operating like a mini-Las Vegas in the jungle, plying their trade to boatloads of visitors from Brunei.

It's the real world's version of arbitrage found in financial markets.

Most governments in the world recognise that such anomalies are not productive and do their best to rub them out. Of course, sometimes that's difficult, which is why we have tax havens.

I had to laugh, therefore, at a tongue-in-cheek suggestion from an online reader on how we might solve the impending daylight saving issue.

It didn't take long for some people to realise that, with Nationals WA holding the balance of power in Western Australia, there may be a referendum on daylight saving earlier than originally planned.

We posted a story on that issue online last week, which generated a flurry of reader responses revealing that - early referendum or not - daylight saving remains a divisive topic that really gets people hot under the collar.

One respondent, Ric, who works in Northbridge, humorously suggested that we use the Swan River to delineate two new time zones, with all those who don't want daylight saving to live south of the river, while all those who want it (including the CBD) could live north of the river.

"That way, when it gets dark in the southern suburbs, people can cross the river and get another hour of (northern) daylight in their day," suggested Ric.

Although written in jest, Ric's suggestion still underlines how much we seek to use artificial lines of demarcation for protectionism, even in the so-called global marketplace.

Take late-night trading, for instance, and the ridiculous notion that places like the CBD, Fremantle and Rockingham are less regulated than neighbouring commercial districts.

When you consider shopping hours, Ric's suggestion suddenly gains an element of plausibility.

Of course, this contribution was just one of a number of comments, most of which considered the issue far from funny.

Daylight saving is a very divisive issue. It cuts across all notional political boundaries with the exception of rural communities, which tend to resent it as a city-imposed obligation.

That's probably why the Nationals were the only party prepared to have a policy on it.

Personally, I'm against it. That's because I am a morning person. Actually, to be honest, I'm not a morning person but I like to do things in the morning and need a healthy dose of sunlight to get me up and at it.

In the experiment of the past two years, I have actually enjoyed some of the benefits of taking advantage of later evenings, especially towards the end of summer. But with summer looming, those benefits are outweighed by the darkness in the morning.

Editorially, I've always favoured daylight saving because I believed the business community wants it.

But I'm starting to have my doubts on that front as well. The business case for daylight saving - dealing with the east coast - is now countered by increased interaction with Asia, which is seen as an advantage of Perth's natural time zone.

To me, business people are just as divided as the rest of the community.

More than two years ago, I asked a room of around 250 business people what they thought and the result was a 50/50 mix for and against, with friends prepared to heckle friends publicly over the issue.

In my view, and it's backed up by the comments on our website last week, that sentiment remains; and a referendum, now or in six months, won't alter that.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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