07/05/2009 - 00:00

Daylight saving advocates ignore Asia links

07/05/2009 - 00:00


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Labor MP Andrew Waddell explains why he coordinated the official ‘no’ case for the daylight saving referendum.

AS a new member of parliament, I had planned to keep a relatively low profile in my initial 12 months in office, to learn the ropes and concentrate on the issues affecting my electorate of Forrestfield.

While I had a personal opinion on daylight saving, I didn't intend to publicise this fact as I felt the community was reasonably divided.

However, two factors came into play. Firstly, I was contacted by a number of constituents who shared my view and were very opposed to daylight saving; and secondly, I felt that there was not a significant 'no' campaign being waged from within the halls of parliament and, particularly, that there was not a voice from the city.

Consequently, I decided to take up the challenge.

The common view is that business is generally pro-daylight saving.

Obviously traditional business hours are going to be within daylight hours regardless. So the business argument has been essentially based around the time difference between WA and the eastern states (except Queensland which, having a climate similar to a lot of WA, has opted to stay out of daylight saving).

The argument goes that we start work at 9am, which is lunchtime in Sydney, thereby reducing the number of working hours to something unacceptable. This argument is the 'yes' campaigns equivalent of fading curtains.

It is predicated on two misguided concepts of how business is carried out.

It fails to recognise, first of all, that our major business partners are no longer on the east coast, but within Asia, specifically Singapore, Hong Kong and Beijing.

These major centres of commerce, which provide us with massive amounts of trade and investment, far more these days than our east coast compatriots, are actually in line with Perth in the GMT +8 time zone.

To move our clocks forward by one hour would leave us out of sync with the majority of Asia and still two hours behind the east coast, giving us the worst of both worlds.

Also, we now live in the modern reality of instant communication, mobile phones and email.

The modern call centre is often staffed 24/7 and often based in a range of places around the globe.

Workplace reform has provided the opportunity for businesses to alter their hours of operation.

I ask, is it easier for a firm of stockbrokers to change its hours of operation or for a school to change its hours of operation?

Perhaps the greatest myth associated with daylight saving is that it provides additional family time. Quite simply this is not true.

The same number of hours are available in the day. If anything, the movement of an hour of sunlight to the end of the day is particularly harsh on families with small children where they have been conditioned to sleep at night and routine is paramount to their continued health and good behavior.

Sending our children to school tired is not in their best interests, nor likely to achieve best educational outcomes.

There have now been several studies both here and abroad that demonstrate that daylight saving increases electricity consumption.

During WA's recent trial, Synergy indicated an increase in electricity consumption, due to the increased use of air conditioners. Family members who are home by 4pm will be experiencing the heat intensity of a 3pm sun.

Their only option is to use air conditioning at a time when business demand will also be at its highest.

Smoothing energy demand should be a priority, but this isn't helped by daylight saving.

Instead, daylight saving will accentuate peak energy demand, which causes the use of expensive-to-run peak period electricity generating equipment, that is more greenhouse polluting than baseload generation.

It is often put forward that daylight saving will enable Western Australians to enjoy more time on the beach and in recreation.

The best hours for beach use in summer is before work and, sadly, daylight saving steals that from us.

Frankly, the majority of Western Australians do not get the opportunity to enjoy this beach lifestyle in any event. Most people have responsibilities such as housework, homework and other activities.

Remember, this does not add an hour, it only moves it. We still only have 24 hours in the day to carry out our busy lifestyles.

The fact is that many people prefer to exercise early in the morning. In the later period of daylight saving, morning exercisers are faced with the prospect of exercising in the dark.

The reality is that additional hour of light in the evening will not be spent exercising but at home watching TV in front of an air conditioner.

Speaking to sporting clubs, many have indicated to me that daylight saving made after school training too unpleasant. Daylight saving is not the healthy lifestyle choice proponents would have us believe.

There is no constitutional reason daylight saving needs to be put to referendum. Political realities, however, tell us that in the event that this referendum passes then there is zero likelihood that it will be implemented in a way other then the terms of the question.

It means we will lose March mornings forever.

It would be a very brave government that would choose to disregard the voice of the people on this issue.

n Andrew Waddell is a Labor MP elected in 2008 to the newly created seat of Forrestfield. He coordinated the official 'no' case accepted by the Australian Electoral Commission for this month's daylight saving referendum.



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