14/05/2009 - 00:00

Now or never for daylight saving in WA

14/05/2009 - 00:00

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Much of the business community supports the retention of daylight saving.

IN the next 48 hours, the daylight saving referendum campaign will draw to a close, and the future of daylight saving will be in the hands of the people of Western Australia.

The state's peak business organisation, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA, strongly supports daylight saving.

We have joined forces with community groups, Liberal and Labor politicians, sportsmen and sportswomen, youth groups, and families to urge a 'yes' vote in Saturday's referendum.

I understand that, for many Western Australians, daylight saving is a personal issue, which generates strong feelings for or against. However, as people consider in the final days of the campaign how they will vote on Saturday, it's worth considering the many benefits the chamber believes daylight saving delivers to people and business all across the state.

Families

Western Australian business people are working harder and longer than ever before as a result of the global financial crisis. We are certainly in tough times, and employers and employees are working hard to survive. This greatly reduces the time that people have to enjoy themselves outdoors, at the end of the day. Daylight saving gives us the opportunity to reverse that trend.

Families from all over the state have embraced daylight saving by flocking to our parks, beaches and other outdoor areas to enjoy quality active time together in the early evening. Others are simply getting out into the garden at home to play with the kids, water the garden, or to complete chores that would normally only be done on the weekend.

Business

The daylight saving referendum gives all Western Australians an opportunity to help local businesses in the economic downturn by removing an unnecessary source of inconvenience and frustration.

Many small businesses already face a disadvantage in competing, and dealing, with businesses located in the eastern states.

Daylight saving eliminates one of the hurdles by decreasing the time difference in summertime between Western Australians and their customers, clients, suppliers, and business and government networks in the eastern states.

Without daylight saving, the time difference between the east and west coast increases to three hours during the summer months. While the normal two-hour difference with Australia's main commercial and population centres is difficult, the WA business community tells us that operating with the three-hour difference is nearly impossible.

This means that when Western Australians arrive for work in the morning, their eastern states counterparts are out for lunch. When WA workers return from their lunch break, their east coast colleagues are heading home.

Malz Motoring and Leisure Zone owner Ray Della-Polina says: "It mightn't sound a lot, but that one hour makes a significant difference, the hour difference basically reduces the availability for contact with your eastern states suppliers, it cuts it in half and makes things difficult. Anything that puts imposts on business, or makes business more difficult to manage, naturally it must have an effect on profits, and must have an effect on the level of service you can provide your customers."

These are difficult times for small business and we should not be putting more obstacles in the way of job creation and business opportunities.

While WA business has important dealings with Asia, the overwhelming majority of local businesses rely on customers, clients, contacts and suppliers within our own country to run successful operations, create jobs, and keep the economy strong.

Even if a local business does not directly deal with the eastern states, many of the suppliers and customers that local business rely upon, do. It makes sense to make it easier for the local supply chain to work better by making daylight saving a permanent feature of summer.

Arguments for and against

In recent weeks, many arguments have been mounted for and against daylight saving. It is important that such decisions are based on the facts.

Over the years, opponents of daylight saving have perpetuated many myths about the concept, for example warning that daylight saving leads to an increase in road crashes, and increases the risk of developing skin cancer due to greater exposure to sunlight, among other issues. Often, these claims are based on overseas studies, rather than local evidence. This is ironic given that many daylight saving opponents also assert WA's uniqueness and individuality as an argument against daylight saving.

These arguments simply do not stack up when subjected to credible research by local authorities.

Some of WA's leading experts have publicly rejected the many myths put forward by opponents of daylight saving.

Argument: Employers and employees who rely directly or indirectly on doing business with the eastern states should get to work an hour earlier, or use the internet, email and mobile phones to communicate out of normal business hours.

Fact: This assertion ignores the impact of the three-hour time difference on the work/life balance of the hundreds of thousands of Western Australians who earn a living in local business. It also ignores the fact that, in regional WA, local businesses often do not have access to high speed internet or a reliable mobile phone service. It's another irony that country politicians and rural lobby groups are so opposed to daylight saving, when their own local businesses stand to benefit from a small time difference with the eastern states during summertime.

Argument: Daylight saving is bad for WA companies doing business with Asia.

Fact: The majority of WA businesses - particularly small businesses - are more reliant on customers, suppliers and colleagues located within our own country, not those overseas, to do their jobs. Our most important Asian trading partners are in the same time zone, or within one hour of WA. Daylight saving in WA makes no more than a one-hour time difference with these countries. WA businesses that trade with Asia tell us that is manageable. If it were such a problem, why would the heads of prominent WA companies that do business with Asia, such as Rio Tinto, Alcoa and Wesfarmers, be in favour?

Argument: Daylight saving increases electricity consumption.

Fact: "Daylight saving has almost no effect on energy consumption. Western Power has reported very little impact to energy consumption as a result of daylight saving. In general, the hotter and more humid the months are, the more energy is used as a result of daylight saving. Overall, energy consumption increased a marginal 0.35 per cent over the 2008-09 daylight saving trial period." Western Power fact sheet - daylight saving

Argument: Daylight saving leads to an increase in road accidents.

Fact: "The Office of Road safety and the Road Safety Council are unaware of any evidence on the impact of daylight saving on road crashes in WA. A review of the international research on this issue does not provide conclusive evidence about the impacts either positively or negatively that could be applied to WA at this time." Iain Cameron, executive director, Office of Road Safety (April 7 2009)

Argument: Daylight saving increases the risk of developing skin cancer.

Fact: "Daylight saving changes the clock time but it does not change the amount of UV radiation reaching the ground." The Cancer Council Western Australia - Daylight saving & skin cancer fact sheet

On May 16, Western Australians will be asked to make a decision that will shape our state's future social, business and economic development. This referendum is the last opportunity for WA to say 'yes' to daylight saving.

Make no mistake. It's now or never.

n James Pearson is chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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